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Frequently Asked Questions

These FAQs were put together by members of Movement Matters. Movement Matters is the UK umbrella organisation representing the major national groups concerned with children and adults with coordination difficulties, a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and sometimes referred to as ‘dyspraxia’. Movement Matters was formed in 2011 to act as an umbrella group to bring together the key bodies involved in Developmental Coordination Disorder/Dyspraxia in the UK. This includes DCD-UK, The Dyspraxia Foundation, The Developmental Adult Neuro-diversity Association (DANDA) and the National Handwriting Association. Dyspraxia/DCD Ireland support Movement Matters and we are pleased to have Prof. Amanda Kirby, a main contributor as one of our advisors.

What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a common developmental disorder that is diagnosed when an individual has severe difficulties in learning everyday motor skills, which cannot be explained by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment. Motor difficulties are seen as clumsiness, as well as slowed and inaccurate performance of motor skills. These affect all activities including dressing, using utensils and ball skills. Academic and vocational performance are also affected by the motor difficulties. The difficulties may be considered to be mild, moderate or severe.

What is DSM?

This refers to the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ a classification system published by the American Psychiatric Association and used internationally by researchers and clinicians. Based on the latest research evidence, it describes a wide range of psychological disorders seen in childhood and adulthood, including Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Importantly, it lists the central features of each disorder to help clinicians make an accurate diagnosis. The latest version is DSM-5, published in May 2013.

Who can diagnose Developmental Coordination Disorder?

A diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD is usually undertaken by different professionals as a part of an interdisciplinary team, after  gathering information from the child, parents, and school to see how the difficulties impact on everyday life. You as a  parent or carer can make a  referral to an ‘Assessment of Needs officer who will refer you onto an interdisciplinary team under the HSE ‘Assessment of Need’ click on link for more information . http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/disability/Disability_Assessment/ That team would consider the information about your child’s coordination and conduct a formal, standardised assessment looking at your child’s co-ordination. They will also rule out other reasons for your child’s motor difficulties (e.g.Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy). See the EACD UK recommendations for DCD for further information.

If you need to go for a private assessment you can contact us, Dyspraxia/DCD Ireland on 01 8747085

What is ‘dyspraxia’?

Dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. Associated with this there may be problems of language, perception and thought. (The Dyspraxia Foundation (UK) 1997). Dyspraxia is a difficulty with thinking out, planning and carrying out sensory/motor tasks. A person with dyspraxia may have a combination of several problems in varying degrees. These include poor balance, poor fine and gross motor coordination, difficulties with vision, motor planning, perception problems and poor awareness of body position in space.

What is the difference between Developmental Coordination Disorder and Dyspraxia?

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is the term used in DSM-5 to refer to a condition in which an individual has severe difficulties in learning everyday motor skills, which cannot be explained by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment. The main features of this condition are clearly described in DSM-5. The term ‘dyspraxia’ is used in many different ways by different people, which can cause confusion. Some use it interchangeably with ‘DCD’ to mean the same thing. Others use it to refer to something quite different. Unlike DCD, there is no internationally agreed formal definition of the term ‘dyspraxia’, and it is not included in DSM-5. Despite this, in Ireland and the UK the term ‘dyspraxia’ is sometimes used in a very broad way to refer to children who have motor difficulties plus difficulties with: speech,organisation, planning, sequencing, working memory and various other psychological, emotional and social problems. However, there is little research evidence to support such a broad diagnostic category..

Can someone have a diagnosis of ‘dyspraxia’ if they don’t have any difficulties with motor skills?

The term ‘dyspraxia’ is used in many different ways by different people and there is no internationally agreed formal definition for the term. In Ireland and the UK however, the term ‘dyspraxia’ is often used to refer to the condition DCD. If this is the case, then a diagnosis of ‘DCD’ should be given and this only if the individual currently experiences difficulties with everyday motor skills (since this is the main feature of DCD).

Why are GPs not diagnosing Dyspraxia/DCD?

A diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD is usually undertaken by different professionals as a part of a multi-disciplinary team, after  gathering information from the child, parents, and school to see how the difficulties impact on every day life. GPs have an important role to play in this process. GPs may do an initial examination of the child and find out about their past development and current functioning. They may then refer the child onto a paediatrician and/or occupational therapist or multi-disciplinary team for a broader assessment. Some GPs have more experience of Dyspraxia/DCD than others.

Is Dyspraxia/DCD associated with epilepsy?

Many children with Dyspraxia/DCD will have more than one other developmental disorder overlapping with Dyspraxia/DCD, and so may be at a greater risk of epilepsy because of this association. Some work has looked at the association with Benign Epilepsy with Centrotemporal Spikes (BECTS), also known as nocturnal or Rolandic epilepsy. Motor difficulties have been seen to be present with this form of childhood epilepsy although more research is still needed. This does not mean that the majority of children with a diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD will have epilepsy.

Is verbal dyspraxia DCD?

No.Verbal dyspraxia falls under DSM-5’s Communication Disorders, and not Motor Disorders. A diagnosis of verbal dyspraxia is given where a child has difficulty making the precise movements needed to produce individual speech sounds and putting these sounds together in the right order in words. Some children with communication disorders also have a diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD but in this case the two conditions are separate but co-occurring.

At what age should a diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD be given?

It is not recommended for a formal diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD to be given before 5 years of age. This is because there is a lot of variation in children’s development before this age and also variations in the opportunities children have to experience motor skill. However, this does not mean that a child who appears to be delayed in their motor skills before the age of 5 should not be closely monitored, or some form of intervention given. The child can be informally noted as having movement difficulties and appropriate actions taken to support the child’s needs.

When should early intervention start?

The first step is for someone to recognise that the child is not progressing in their motor skill development as one would expect. This can be the parent, a nursery nurse or equivalent, a pre-school teacher, friends and family. At this stage it would be advisable to obtain some form of professional help, probably through either  the health or education services. This may involve some form of assessment to help plan intervention that can be given by parents and others in the context of daily living. A diagnosis should not be given at this stage, but the child can be helped by providing appropriate activities that are geared to his/her needs. Some children improve quickly with this intervention, while others will need support throughout their childhood.

 What can parents do to help in the early years?

Once the child has been recognized as having motor difficulties, his/her parents are in a unique position to support the needs of the child. First, parents can provide their child with exposure to, and experiences of activities that one would expect in the course of daily living and not as separate ‘intervention’ schedules.It is much better to participate in the activities often for shorter periods than having long but infrequent formal sessions. Help and guidance for parents can be obtained from Dyspraxia/DCD Ireland and health and education services. However, it may be that the child may require more than simply experience. In such cases,direct teaching of an essential activity is needed. For this the parent may require additional assistance in the form of more specific guidance from a professional. 

 If you have a diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD in childhood,  does it still apply later on?

Most children with motor coordination difficulties do not grow out of them so it is likely that they will still experience problems in this area as they get older. A formal diagnosis needs a recent assessment of motor skill to establish that all the DSM-5 criteria for Dyspraxia/DCD continue to be met.

 How do you know if you have Dyspraxia/DCD as an adult?

Any diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD should include confirmation of motor difficulties in childhood and continuing motor difficulties in adulthood. However, there is no standard process of confirming a diagnosis in anyone over 16 years of age. This is because there is no standardized test to assess motor competence after this age. Movement Matters has provided some guidance which gives suggestions on how to tell whether an adult has Dyspraxia/DCD.

 What support is available for a student with Dyspraxia/DCD starting university?

Universities do not cater specifically for students with Dyspraxia/DCD, but provide support for all students with additional learning needs usually through student support services. However, if a student makes it known that s/he has experienced this type of difficulty in the past, s/he will be advised of any provision which s/he can take advantage of. It is always sensible to contact the University’s Student Disability Team/Disability Office.  

 Are problems with executive function seen in those with Dyspraxia/DCD?

Executive functions is a broad term that refers to planning, working memory, impulse control, inhibition and mental flexibility, as well as the initiation and monitoring of action. Parents, teachers and individuals with Dyspraxia/DCD sometimes report difficulties with executive functioning (including poor planning, memory for instructions and sequencing information). Research is considering whether these are common in those with Dyspraxia/DCD, whether they might be a core part of the disorder or whether they can be co-occurring difficulties in some people.

 What can individuals with Dyspraxia/DCD do to help employers understand their difficulties?

Dyspraxia/DCD is not as widely known in the general population as conditions such as dyslexia or autism. An employee with Dyspraxia/DCD should give his/her line manager, employer and Human Resources (HR) staff information about Dyspraxia/DCD to show them that it is a real condition. Contact the HR department and ask for an appointment with Occupational Health who can suggest reasonable adjustments.  Adjustments might include using the computer rather than handwriting or starting work a little later than other employees. However, many people have different needs and there will be a range of solutions that will be appropriate for different people.

HELPLINE 01 8747085

A help and support line is available to all those affected by Dyspraxia/DCD. One of our team will take your calls and look forward to assisting you and providing any information and support you may require.

More than one child in every classroom has Dyspraxia...  We know these kids will thrive with earlier assessments and the right support

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