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Key Things You Need To Know About Dyspraxia In Adults

Written by Sarah Norman

Review by Alina Ivan

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  • wellbeing

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Apr 3, 2023, 8 min read

If you have questions about dyspraxia, you’re in the right place. This type of neurodivergence is a common developmental coordination disorder with a number of signs and symptoms, and gaining more understanding of the condition can help whether you are wondering if you might have dyspraxia yourself, or looking to help someone in your life who does.

In this article, we will look at all things dyspraxia; what it is, how to know if you or someone you love might have it, the struggles dyspraxic people might face, signs of dyspraxia in adults, whether or not it qualifies for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), how to cope with it long-term, and much more.

At Augmentive, we aim to provide holistic, tailored mental health support to everyone so they can live their life to the fullest, so if you have questions about dyspraxia, we’re here to help.

What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia (not to be confused with dyslexia), commonly known among healthcare professionals as developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a form of neurodiversity that affects a person’s physical coordination. The information on dyspraxia mostly focuses on children since the condition is typically first noticed during childhood, however it can affect adults too. The signs of dyspraxia in adults include issues with posture, balance and movement, which we will go into more detail on later.

Dyspraxia affects around 5-6% of children and around 10% of the overall population (with varying degrees of severity). Interestingly, dyspraxia is more often found in males than in females, though females are usually older when the signs are identified.

What causes dyspraxia?

There are a number of theories about the causes of dyspraxia, but ultimately it is a condition that a person has from birth as a result of a disruption in the way messages are transmitted between the brain and the body, which affects their fine and/or gross motor coordination.

There are a number of risk factors which are thought to increase the chances of developing dyspraxia, including premature birth, a low birth weight, or a family history of dyspraxia or other coordination difficulties.

It’s important to note that dyspraxia is something you are born with, and you cannot develop it as a result of a brain injury or illness. Dyspraxia acquired later in life is known as apraxia, which would be the result of a brain trauma or brain illness such as a stroke.

What are the three types of dyspraxia?

There are 3 different types of dyspraxia which cause a variation of symptoms;

  1. Motor dyspraxia, which causes issues with coordination and affects skills such as writing or getting dressed (for example due to shakiness, poor hand-eye coordination, or general "clumsiness" when handling things.
  2. Verbal dyspraxia, which causes issues with speech.
  3. Oral dyspraxia, which causes issues with the movement of the mouth and tongue.

The signs of verbal and oral dyspraxia may seem similar, but they are distinct in that verbal dyspraxia causes difficulty creating the required mouth movements that lead to clear speech, while oral dyspraxia causes difficulty coordinating movements of the vocal tract, including the lips, tongue, palate and more. For example, a person with oral dyspraxia might struggle to suck liquid from a straw.

What do dyspraxic people struggle with?

Depending on their specific type of dyspraxia, and due to overarching issues with posture, balance and coordination, adults with dyspraxia might struggle with several aspects of daily life, including:

  • Learning new skills
  • Organising and planning
  • Writing or typing on a keyboard
  • Personal grooming
  • Sports or exercise
  • Doing chores at home
  • Social awkwardness and confidence issues
  • Fatigue

Although people with dyspraxia may struggle to learn specific new skills or plan ahead, remember that the condition has nothing to do with intelligence, and those with dyspraxia may find they are very strong in other areas of life such as their creativity or determination.

"The main thing those with dyspraxia struggle with is the mode of functioning. This includes skills such as balancing and coordination which become very difficult. It may seem as though someone is very clumsy as they drop things on the floor and break a lot of things."
- Dr Khurram Sadiq, Consultant Psychiatrist

If you have dyspraxia, keep in mind that even if you struggle with any of the above areas of life, this does not mean you cannot achieve and participate in these activities. Instead, it means you will need to find the way that works best for you to achieve what you want.

“Do not let it stop you… The fact that some things are more of a struggle will only make you more determined, harder working and more imaginative in the solutions you find to problems.”- Daniel Radcliffe, Actor with dyspraxia

What are the signs of dyspraxia in adults?

If you are wondering about a dyspraxia diagnosis for someone close to you, or you are wondering if you might be dyspraxic yourself, there are some signs that may help determine whether or not you or your loved one has the condition.

Although the signs of dyspraxia are usually discovered in childhood, for adults, the signs may include the following:

  • A history of physical awkwardness as a child, but coping strategies developed in adulthood
  • Difficulty learning new motor skills or applying them in a new or busy environment
  • Difficulty handling tools and equipment, for example holding a pen or chopping food with a knife
  • Easily losing balance and becoming fatigued quickly
  • Writing neatly or writing a lot, but not both at once
  • Pausing during conversations, and social anxiety leading to avoidance of social situations that may expose any signs of dyspraxia
  • Struggling with organisation, planning ahead and time management skills, leading to missed deadlines and lateness
  • Struggling to achieve academically or at work

It may be difficult to identify dyspraxia symptoms in yourself, so if you believe you struggle with any of the above you may wish to speak to a specialist who can help you determine if you may have dyspraxia, what type you have, how severe the symptoms, and coping strategies that could help. Our free 15 minute consultation can guide you to a dyspraxia specialist.

Challenges with adult dyspraxia

Often overshadowed by its more well-known counterparts like dyslexia and ADHD, dyspraxia remains relatively underexplored and underdiagnosed in adulthood. Although dyspraxia is commonly associated with childhood development, it is important to recognise that it persists into adulthood for many individuals.

Adults with dyspraxia often encounter difficulties with fine motor skills, spatial awareness, organisation, and planning, leading to a range of challenges in their personal and professional lives. Simple tasks like tying shoelaces, using utensils, or even driving can become complex feats to overcome.

Symptoms can manifest in a myriad of ways which is why case-by-case examination is needed to identify the unique challenges and strengths that someone presents. Adults with dyspraxia may experience challenges with handwriting, time management, coordination, balance, and multitasking. These hurdles can result in low self-esteem, anxiety, and a sense of frustration that pervades everyday life.

Shattering stigma: raising awareness and acceptance of adult dyspraxia

Despite the prevalence of dyspraxia in adults, there remains a significant lack of awareness and understanding in society. Many individuals with dyspraxia face stigma and misconceptions, which further compounds their struggles. Raising awareness and fostering acceptance are vital steps in creating an inclusive society that accommodates the needs of those with dyspraxia.

Organisations such as the Dyspraxia Foundation have been working tirelessly to shed light on the condition, dispel myths, and provide support for individuals and their families. Their efforts have contributed to a growing understanding of dyspraxia and the importance of early diagnosis, but the journey towards widespread recognition is far from over.

Unlocking potential: nurturing strengths and embracing assistive technologies

While dyspraxia poses numerous challenges, it is essential to recognise that individuals with the condition possess unique strengths and talents. Many adults with dyspraxia demonstrate exceptional creativity, problem-solving skills, and the ability to think outside the box. By focusing on their strengths, individuals with dyspraxia can unlock their true potential and contribute to numerous fields including the arts, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Even better, the rapid advancements in assistive technologies hold great promise for bridging the gap between dyspraxia and everyday tasks. Speech-to-text software, digital organisers, specialized keyboards, and adaptive tools have already proven invaluable in enhancing independence and productivity for adults with dyspraxia. By harnessing the power of technology, we can provide individuals with the tools they need to thrive in a world not designed with them in mind.

The future of adult dyspraxia: research and empowerment

As the world becomes increasingly aware of dyspraxia in adults, the need for further research and support becomes evident. Researchers are exploring the genetic and neurological underpinnings of dyspraxia, paving the way for personalized interventions and targeted therapies. Additionally, support networks and online communities are emerging, providing a sense of belonging and empowerment to individuals with dyspraxia.

Moving forward, it is crucial for policymakers, educators, and employers to work together in creating inclusive environments that accommodate the diverse needs of individuals with dyspraxia by fostering understanding, providing necessary accommodations, and embracing differences rather than rejecting them.

Can dyspraxia get better or worse with age?

Dyspraxia cannot be cured, but it does not tend to get worse with age. You can learn to manage the condition with coping strategies.

Keep in mind that some children do outgrow some of the signs of dyspraxia, but in most cases they will remain until adulthood.

How is dyspraxia treated?

While dyspraxia cannot be cured, there are a number of therapies that can help manage the issues and improve motor skills, speech and other problem areas, such as:

  • Occupational therapy — this helps with practical ways to manage everyday tasks
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) — involves talking therapy to help manage issues through changes in mindset and behaviour.
  • Speech and language therapy — A specialist can assess speech and advise a treatment plan to help improve communication. This is typically done for children, but adults can see benefits from this too.
  • Perceptual motor training — Helps to improve language, visual, movement and auditory skills through a series of tasks. Again, this is mostly done in children.

Does dyspraxia count as a disability and qualify for PIP?

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was previously known as the Disability Living Allowance in the UK, and this is money to help with extra living costs for those with a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability, or difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around because of their condition.

To qualify, the Department for Work and Pensions will have to assess how difficult you find daily living and mobility tasks, such as whether you can do things safely, how long they take, whether or not you need help, and more. As there are different types of dyspraxia and everyone experiences different individual issues, whether or not you are eligible for PIP support would be assessed on a case by case basis.

How is dyspraxia diagnosed in adults?

Diagnosing dyspraxia in adults is usually based on an assessment of factors like medical history, motor skills and more, because there are no specific medical tests for health professionals to make a diagnosis.

If you suspect you may have dyspraxia, you can speak to your GP about a possible diagnosis or take our free 15 minute consultation to be put in touch with a specialist who can answer more questions for you.

Does dyspraxia tend to co-occur with other conditions?

Dyspraxia can exist on its own, but if you have it, there are a number of other conditions which can co-occur alongside, such as:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Dyslexia
  • Autism
  • Dyscalculia (a condition which causes difficulty learning or understanding maths)
  • Depression or anxiety
"Dyspraxia's concurrence with autism and ADHD is quite high because it is part of the neurodiversity paradigm. You see a large combination of dyspraxia and dyslexia with autism and ADHD."
- Dr Khurram Sadiq, Consultant Psychiatrist

What is the long-term outlook when living with dyspraxia?

People with dyspraxia can live an otherwise healthy lifestyle, and although certain things in daily life may be more challenging, they can work alone, with loved ones, or with a specialist to find coping strategies that can make things easier.

If you believe you may have dyspraxia or you would like support to help develop strategies to make daily life easier and improve symptoms, you can reach out to one of our specialists. At Augmentive, we offer a free 15 minute consultation to help guide you towards a specialist who can help specifically with dyspraxia treatment, along with specialist solutions for private dyspraxia assessment.

Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from private psychiatric assessments to helping you find a therapist near you for support on your journey.

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