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What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a condition that causes impaired movement and coordination which is thought to be due to lack of development of nerve cells supplying the muscles. People with dyspraxia have difficulty planning and performing motor function which causes uneven, uncoordinated movements.It also affects intellectual, emotional, language, social and sensory areas of development causing problems with learning, perception and thought. Dyspraxia can be present in children and adults.

Physiotherapy treatment for both adults and children with dyspraxia will promote motor function, coordination and posture which will in turn increase self- confidence. Physiotherapy will also help to improve non-physical aspects of dyspraxia.

Neurological physiotherapist supervising safe mobilisation down a flight of stairsAbove: Neurological physiotherapist supervising safe mobilisation down a flight of stairs

Diagnosis of dyspraxia

People with dyspraxia are affected differently and the symptoms of dyspraxia vary between individuals. Dyspraxia is commonly diagnosed in childhood. The following specialists may diagnose dyspraxia:
  • Physiotherapists and Occupational therapists- will assess physical difficulties in people with dyspraxia
  • Psychologists – will assess behavioural and emotional difficulties
  • GP/Paediatricians – will rule out any other possible causes

What causes dyspraxia?

It is unclear what causes dyspraxia. It is thought that damage to the nerve cells that send messages from your brain to your muscles (motor neurones) do not develop properly. This means that messages from the brain do not reach the muscles and so the individual has difficulty responding to activities.

It has also been suggested that damage to the motor neurones may be a result of abnormal development in the baby’s brain in the womb, or a lack of oxygen during birth. It may also follow brain damage caused by illness, stroke or an accident later in life.

Environmental factors may also causedyspraxia. If children are not encouraged to participate in physical activity on a regular basis they will not develop their motor skills to a level in line with their age. Similarly if they spend too much time on the computer, they will miss out on important activities that will help develop motor planning, function and coordination.

What are the effects / symptoms of dyspraxia in children?

In children symptoms may be evident from an early age. This may be present in babies when they do not reach the crawling phase preferring a ‘bottom shuffle’. Children with dyspraxia may also have the following difficulties:

Physical symptoms include:
  • Not reaching milestones, such as sitting, standing and walking at the right time compared with their friends
  • Poor posture, body awareness and awkward when moving
  • Poor fine motor skills such as handwriting
Physiotherapists are concerned with how motor function develops and the physical symptoms of dyspraxia. Physiotherapy will improve an individual’s motor development, which in turn will facilitate self-esteem and confidence.

Non physical symptoms include:
  • Problems with speech and language
  • Difficulty with maths and writing
  • Problems integrating with other children
  • Problems with coordination so difficulty dressing, eating or tying shoelaces
  • Limited concentration or attention span and listening skills
  • Low self-esteem and frustration
Children with dyspraxia will benefit from physiotherapy input from the specialist physiotherapists at

What are the effects / symptoms of dyspraxia in adults?

Physical symptoms include:
  • Difficulties with everyday tasks at work and home such as dressing, driving and household tasks
  • Problems with sport such as riding a bike
  • Clumsy gait
  • Poor balance
  • Poor posture and fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor hand eye coordination e.g. catching a ball driving a car
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills such as handwriting, holding pen, using tools, using cutlery
  • Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships (proprioception)
  • Increased risk of falling, bumping into objects
Non physical symptoms include:
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty with speech and language
  • Difficulty with planning and organising activities at home or work
  • Difficulty with concentration and following instruction
  • Difficulty in listening to people, especially in large groups
  • Problems adapting to new situations
However, the symptoms of dyspraxia are not consistent soone day a person may be able to achieve an activity when the next day they cannot.Symptoms of dyspraxia also vary between individuals.

Adults with dyspraxia will benefit from physiotherapy. Physiotherapy treatment is centred on the physical symptoms of dyspraxia.

Physiotherapy for dyspraxia

Physiotherapy will help adults and children to reach their maximum potential with everyday tasks. Physiotherapy treatment is best provided by a specialised neurological physiotherapist. At neurological physiotherapists are experienced in treating people with dyspraxia. Physiotherapy will improve motor skills as well as organisational ability such as concentration, accuracy and fine motor control.

Physiotherapists will carry out an assessment to determine an individual’s abilities. In children physiotherapists will assess if they are at an age appropriate level and if they have reached specific milestones. Information is gathered on difficulties experienced at home and school. In adults, the physiotherapist will assess fine and gross motor control as well as proximal stability. Our motivated physiotherapists at will use specific tests to assess underlying motor, sensory and perceptual abilities.Physiotherapy treatment is centred on:
  • Improving posture
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Improving gross muscle control and increasing muscle strength
  • Improving fine motor control such as holding objects and handwriting
  • Increasing awareness of body position in space at rest and during movement (proprioception)
  • Improving sitting and functional abilities such as walking
  • Promoting everyday tasks. Activities for children may involve games making them fun and engaging
  • Increasing self-confidence and self esteem
From the assessment our physiotherapists will devise a treatment plan with short and long term goals and objectives incorporating family and teachers. Physiotherapy treatment will include:
  • Repeated exercises stimulating pathways in the brain which will improve organisational ability such as breaking down tasks
  • Exercises to encourage participation in new activities which are both enjoyable and will improve motor skills
  • Exercises to improve muscle strength - activities may be difficult due to poor muscle strength. Increasing muscle strength in the trunk and the shoulder will enable the individual to improve co-ordination skills, concentration and fine motor control such as handwriting. Strengthening of the pelvic girdle will improve balance andactivities such as kicking a ball. These exercises can be followed up at home or in school
  • Activities to improve self-confidence and self-esteem. It is important for children and adults to engage in new activities and feel successful. This will also lead to better interaction with peers and increased concentration.
  • Activities to help improve postural stability. In children this might involve advice and support at home or in the classroom, such as correct seating to facilitate posture
At we also work closely with occupational therapists whocan assist with organisational skills as well as assessing home and school environments.If required our physiotherapists will write reports for special educational needs or reports for special consideration for exam boards.

To arrange a full assessment from one of our physiotherapists call 0330 088 7800, book online or alternatively request a free phone consultation.

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