Dyspraxia/DCD Teens2024-01-09T17:28:16+00:00



Adolescents and young adults experiencing signs and symptoms of Dyspraxia/DCD may not have been diagnosed in childhood but they have a history of issues such as those listed for Children.

For those in these age groups, challenges with motor coordination and related areas continue to impact academic and/or sports performance, decision-making, and social interactions.

Employability may be a new area of concern. The likelihood of encountering stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues increases.

“While it was once believed that children with DCD would outgrow their motor difficulties, evidence suggests that these difficulties persist into adolescence and adulthood.”

Tal-Saban et al., 2012

Signs & Symptoms

Listed below are the diverse areas that may be impacted by Dyspraxia/DCD as well as what the teen may experience. Remember, all teens with Dyspraxia/DCD will have some difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills. Other areas of impact may differ depending on the teen.

Movement, Coordination & Motor Planning
Symptoms of Overlapping Conditions
Symptoms Other than Movement
Difficulties Living with Dyspraxia/DCD

Main Symptoms: Movement, Coordination & Motor Planning

Difficulty coordinating large (gross motor) and/or small (fine motor) body movements.

  • Poor balance
  • Low muscle tone
  • Poor posture/slumping in chair
  • Difficulty with writing and note taking skills
  • Awkward body movements (walking, running, throwing)
  • Accident proneness (bumping into people or objects)
  • Difficulty learning to drive

Symptoms of Overlapping Conditions

Someone with Dyspraxia/DCD may have another diagnosis at the same time.

Concentrating and staying on task.


  • Be easily distracted
  • Have limited attention span
  • Leave tasks unfinished
  • Forget or leave belongings behind
  • Struggle to keep up with peers
  • Have difficulty with time management

Producing and using language.


  • Have immature language patterns
  • Have difficulty pronouncing some sounds or words
  • Experience difficulty transferring thoughts to paper
  • Speak slowly
  • Pause longer than expected when answering a question

Responding to input from the senses.


  • Be over or under sensitive to stimuli (Example: Extremely sensitive to pain or doesn’t feel pain)
  • Be bothered by:
    • Clothing, including:
      • Certain fabrics
      • Tags
      • Seams
    • Light
    • Noise
    • Smells
    • Touch
  • Be overly cautious or be a risk-taker

Symptoms Other Than Movement

Someone with Dyspraxia/DCD may have symptoms in addition to movement and coordination.

Perceiving how far objects are from one’s self and from each other.

May demonstrate:

  • Lack of body awareness in relationship to other people and/or objects
  • Limited understanding of personal space
  • Trouble copying from the board
  • Problems estimating weight, length, weight, distance
  • Reluctance or inability to drive

Planning, monitoring, and executing tasks.


  • Take longer to master new skills
  • Be impulsive
  • Not learn from past consequences
  • Lack awareness of potential danger(s)
  • Be unaware of the passage of time:
    • Needs frequent reminders
    • Often arrives late
    • Misses assignment deadlines

May have difficulty with:

  • Setting goals and monitoring progress
  • Switching focus from one activity to another
  • Organization and planning skills, including:
    • Determining priorities
    • Sequencing
    • Organizing a paragraph, essay, or theme

Remembering and using information for a short time.

May experience difficulty with:

  • Following more than one instruction at a time
  • Remembering names and dates
  • Misplacing items and finding them
  • Recalling recent incidents

Difficulties of Living with Dyspraxia/DCD

The stress of living with Dyspraxia/DCD may lead to emotional or mental health issues.

Managing one’s emotions and/or behavior.

May be:

  • Impulsive
  • Impatient
  • Irritable
  • Easily stressed or frustrated
  • Slow to adapt to new situations


  • Crave routine
  • Have difficulty dealing with the unexpected
  • Demonstrate school refusal or avoidance

Communicating and interacting with others.


  • Lack confidence
  • Demonstrate limited development of social skills
  • Lack understanding of group dynamics
  • Avoid public places – restrooms, stores, public transportation

May be:

  • A loner
  • Awkward in social settings
  • Uncomfortable eating in social situations
  • Unaware of social nuances
  • Susceptible to bullying
  • Vulnerable and/or open to inappropriate suggestions
  • Unaware of the dangers of social media

Experiencing emotional and psychological well-being.

May experience:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety/social anxiety
  • Obsessive and or compulsive behavior
  • Low self-esteem
  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities

Feeling tired or lacking energy.

May experience:

  • Lack of energy
  • Tiring quickly
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Acting out
  • Avoidance of activities
  • Difficulty making routine decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Need for longer periods of rest and sleep

How is Dyspraxia/DCD Diagnosed?

Signs and symptoms will begin early in life, but a diagnosis may be made at any age.

A formal diagnosis will use criteria for Code 315.4 Developmental Coordination Disorder from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) or for Code 6A04 Developmental Motor Coordination Disorder (Developmental Dyspraxia) in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the global standard for diagnostic health information. For an official diagnosis, all the criteria in the DSM-5 or the ICD-11, which are fairly similar to each other, must be met.

Here is a high-level summary of the main diagnostic criteria:

  1. Motor skills are significantly below the level expected for the individual’s age.
  2. Lack of motor skills and coordination affects activities of daily life at home, school, and/or the workplace.
  3. Symptoms were present early in life.
  4. Difficulties with motor skills are not better explained by other medical conditions such as intellectual disability, neurological conditions or visual impairment.
In the United States, Dyspraxia/DCD must be diagnosed by a medical doctor (MD).

A diagnosis will include assessment of the following:

  • Medical history including development and symptoms
  • Gross and fine motor skills, coordination and balance
  • Other possible causes of motor difficulties.

Healthcare professionals providing input for a diagnosis may include:

  • Neurologist
  • Pediatric Neurologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Pediatrician
  • Developmental Pediatrician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Psychologist

A diagnosis will include the following:

Who Can Help With Treatment?

There is no cure, however there are therapies and treatments available to help an individual in reaching their goals and full potential.

The best treatments for Dyspraxia/DCD and overlapping conditions, with or without an official diagnosis, are therapies that support the individual’s needs:

An occupational therapist helps develop skills specific to everyday activities at home, school, and work.
A physical therapist uses exercises, equipment, and hands-on therapy to help develop motor skills.
A developmental optometrist helps improve visual skills using exercises to strengthen the connection between the eyes and the brain.

Psychological therapy can strengthen mental health by improving resilience in the face of challenges and by addressing issues such as depression and anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a structured, goal-oriented type of talk therapy used by mental health professionals to help people understand and change negative thought patterns and improve coping skills.

In addition to providing assessments for diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD, a neuropsychologist may help individuals develop learning and coping strategies tailored to their individual needs.
A speech pathologist develops and implements a treatment plan that will help you or your child communicate more effectively.

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