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Dyspraxia (adults) - Introduction

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Dyspraxia is a common disorder that affects movement and co-ordination. It is also known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD).

Dyspraxia affects basic motor skills (such as walking or sitting upright) and fine motor skills (such as writing or picking up small objects) in children and adults. It is a condition that will last for life and is recognised by international organisations, including the World Health Organization.

Dyspraxia is different from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs in people of all intellectual abilities. 

This page focuses on dyspraxia/DCD in adults. Read about childhood dyspraxia.

Symptoms of dyspraxia

The symptoms of dyspraxia can vary between individuals and may change over time.

Co-ordination difficulties

The co-ordination difficulties associated with dyspraxia can reduce the person's ability to participate and function in education and employment.

Difficulties with self-care, writing, typing, riding a bike and playing may start in childhood and continue into adulthood. An adult may also experience new difficulties, for example with driving a vehicle or DIY.

Other difficulties

Adults with dyspraxia may also have social and emotional difficulties, as well as problems with time management, planning and personal organisation. These may affect the person's education or employment.

Diagnosing adult dyspraxia

See your GP if you think you have undiagnosed co-ordination difficulties. You may be referred for an assessment by a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist, who will look at your ability to move.

Dyspraxia/DCD is a condition only really recognised in the last 20 years or so. This means there could be many adults with dyspraxia who were not diagnosed as children.

Who is affected?

Estimates vary, but dyspraxia is thought to affect around 5-6% of people in the UK. It is more common in men, and often runs in families.

It is not known what causes dyspraxia, but some children born prematurely have a higher risk of having dyspraxia.

People with dyspraxia may also have other conditions, such as:

Treating dyspraxia in adults

Dyspraxia does not affect intelligence, but may make learning new skills more difficult. Adults with dyspraxia may have developed coping strategies to find ways around everyday tasks they find difficult.

For example, you may find your movement problems improve as you find ways to adapt. As you grow older and accept yourself, your confidence and self-esteem may also improve. This may be because the pressure to 'fit in' as an adult is not as strong as when you were a child and teenager.

Some people also find staying fit helps their co-ordination, reduces feelings of fatigue and helps with potential weight gain.

Therapies

Although there is no cure for dyspraxia, there are therapies to help adults cope. These are described below.

  • Occupational therapy can help you find ways to remain independent and manage everyday tasks such as dressing yourself or getting to the local shops. Your occupational therapist can help you work out practical solutions.
  • Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) may also help. CBT aims to help you talk about your problems and identify ways to change your behaviour so you can manage your problems more effectively. SFBT aims to help you identify what you wish to achieve through therapy, rather than talking about the problem itself.
  • Speech and language therapy can be useful if you have problems with speech or language, or both. Your therapist will arrange a programme to address your needs.

Other conditions

If you have dyspraxia, you may also have another health condition that requires separate treatment. For example:

  • depression (long-term feelings of sadness) - this can be treated with a combination of exercise, talking therapies and antidepressant medication
  • anxiety (constant feelings of worry and unease) - this can be treated with medication, talking therapies and a number of self-help measures, such as relaxation techniques

Talk to your GP if either of these conditions affect you.

Medical Review: October 08, 2012
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