Dyspraxia Awareness Week: What is dyspraxia, what are the symptoms and how common is it?

Sabrina Barr

Dyspraxia is a condition affecting physical co-ordination that can affect a person's fine motor skills and articulation.

This year, Dyspraxia Awareness Week is taking place from Sunday 6 October until Saturday 12 October.

The aim of the week is to raise awareness of dyspraxia and break down the stigmas that continue to surround it.

Earlier this year, TV presenter Rav Wilding recently opened up about being diagnosed with dyspraxia, saying he has found it "tricky" coping with the co-ordination disorder throughout his life.

The Crimewatch Roadshow presenter told Press Association that dyspraxia is "kind of like dyslexia with your hands", explaining that he struggled in school when he was unable to do activities that his classmates could with ease.

Signs of dyspraxia may be present from an early age, with possible symptoms including poor co-ordination skills and untidy handwriting.

So what is dyspraxia, what are the symptoms and how common is it? Here's everything you need to know:

What is it?

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Dyspraxia is a form of developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), the Dyspraxia Foundation states.

The disorder can affect fine motor skills – the co-ordination of small muscles, such as the hands and fingers – and gross motor skills – the co-ordination of large muscles, such as the arms, legs and torso.

The condition may also impact a person's articulation when speaking.

While the terms dyspraxia and DCD are sometimes used interchangeably, they don't always refer to the same condition when used.

The NHS explains that the term "DCD" is preferred by the majority of healthcare professionals, as the term "dyspraxia" may have "several meanings".

"For example, dyspraxia can be used to describe movement difficulties that occur later in life as a result of damage to the brain, such as from a stroke or head injury," the NHS adds.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of dyspraxia may become evident from a young age in infants and children.

These symptoms include difficulty playing with toys or taking part in games that involve co-ordination skills, trouble using cutlery, untidy handwriting and an inability to do tasks such as doing up buttons or tying shoelaces, the NHS states.

Other symptoms may include falling over frequently and dropping objects.

However, the NHS points out that these signs may not necessarily by indicative of dyspraxia.

For more information about symptoms of dyspraxia, click here.

Pete Guest, founder of Dyspraxia and Life magazine, discovered he had dyspraxia at the age of 31, having struggled with the condition at school.

Guest, who has not been formally diagnosed with the condition, explains that it can be hard for adults to be diagnosed with dyspraxia through the NHS.

"The pathway isn’t clear and the NHS will not fund diagnostic assessment in adulthood meaning they need to pay up to £800 to be diagnosed privately," Guest tells The Independent.

"This is something many in the community really want to see change as it is unthinkable that you should have to pay for a diagnosis of something you have had since the day you were born.”

What are the causes?

While there is no confirmed cause of dyspraxia, there are factors that may put a child at greater risk of developing the disorder.

These include being born prematurely, weighing a below-average weight at birth and having relatives who had DCD, the NHS outlines.

For more about factors associated with increased risk of developing dyspraxia, visit the NHS website here.

How common is it?

Dyspraxia is more likely to affect boys than girls, states the Dyspraxia Foundation.

It is believed to affect 10 per cent of the population, the Mental Health Foundation outlines, while two per cent are estimated to be severely affected by the condition.

Celebrities diagnosed with dyspraxia include Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, model Cara Delevingne and singer Florence Welch.

How is it treated?

While symptoms of dyspraxia may become reduced over time, as the NHS outlines, treatment may prove beneficial in the long run.

A paediatric occupational therapist may help a child with dyspraxia learn how carry out tasks such as handling cutlery, tying their shoelaces and writing.

Other health professionals that may benefit a child living with dyspraxia may include a paediatrician, a clinical psychologist and an educational psychologist.

The Dyspraxia Foundation recently announced that it is conducting a survey among adults aged 18 and over for those who have either had a formal dyspraxia diagnosis and those who believe they may have the condition but have not been formally diagnosed.

Information garnered from the survey will be published during Dyspraxia Awareness Week, due to take place from Monday 7 October until Sunday 13 October this year.

For more information about dyspraxia, you can contact a local dyspraxia support group by visiting the Dyspraxia Foundation website here.

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