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DYSPRAXIA (Clumsy Child Syndrome/ Percepto-motor dysfunction)



This is how many teachers' describe DYSPRAXIC children. These attitudes lead to the children being marginalised and bullied. This is a good example of the problems with learning difficulties.

A Brief History of Dyspraxia

The term "dyspraxia" comes from the Greek word "praxis" which means "doing, acting, deed or practice". Practice includes both knowing what to do and how to do it, so dyspraxic children have problems with integrating the thought with the action in order to carry out a task.

Dyspraxia was documented when Orton (1937, pp72) used the term "congenital maladroitness". He recognised that disorders of the actual doing of a task (praxis) resulted in clumsiness. These children were called "clumsy children" and dyspraxia was known as "clumsy child syndrome". In the USA this condition was first given recognition through the work of Strauss and Lehitinen in 1947.

So although the condition has been known for over 60 years, many (professional as well as lay) people have little or no knowledge of the syndrome.

In the United Kingdom it has been estimated that 1 in 20 school children suffer from the syndrome which affects organisational, motor and language skills and that children with dyspraxia may also have related conditions such as dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While the cause of dyspraxia is not known, common factors include that most were born either premature of two weeks past their due date. In some cases another family member may suffer from dyspraxia, dyslexia or another related condition.

If you consider that your child may be dyspraxic do not struggle along without help. Ask your general practitioner(doctor) for a referral to a specialist (child development) p├Ždiatrician. Treatment is generally through occupational therapy (supervised by a specialist physiotherapist), the focus of which is to teach the child how their body works and the skills that they find difficult.

Above all, remember that your child's clumsiness (dyspraxia) does not mean that he or she is stupid - many dyspraxic children are of above average intelligence.


Symptoms of dyspraxia can include:

  • Not feeding properly, are irritable and sleep badly
  • May be late in reaching milestones such as sitting, crawling (many never crawl) standing, walking, hopping, jumping
  • Poor writing/drawing abilities
  • Poor short term memory, often forgetting tasks learned the day before
  • Short attention span
  • Difficulties in throwing or catching a ball
  • Inability to sit still
  • Disorganised (difficulty in planning activities)
  • Obsessive behaviour
  • Frequently falls or bumps into things
  • Messy eater, spills things
  • Difficulty/slowness in dressing, tying shoes
  • Speech problems
  • This is not a comprehensive list, and dyspraxic children do not necessarily suffer from all the symptoms. Useful links are listed at the end of this article where more detailed information is available.


    There isn't a cure, or any drug treatment, for dyspraxia so it is a case of persevering with therapy.

    Ask your doctor to refer your child to a paediatrician, listing your reasons reasons for wanting specialist attention. If your doctor is unaware of the condition (many are not!) draw his/her attention to the symptoms.

    In addition to therapy:

  • Encourage your child to take part in physical activities. Play games which develop balance (e.g. trampoline, twister)
  • Encourage success. Fun activities such as swimming, board games, making play dough figures and finger painting are fun games that encourage co-ordination of the gross and fine motor skills.
  • Praise successes, help and encourage when difficulties loom.
  • Keep a regular routine (as much as possible)
  • Try to keep you instructions simple.
  • Parents are most likely to consider that their child might be dyspraxic (or that there is "something wrong") and in a survey carried out by the Dyspraxia Foundation in the UK, only about 9.4% of teachers and 1.8% of General Practitioners are likely to consider this diagnosis.

    Diagnosis of Dyspraxia is most often made by a p├Ždiatrician, general practitioners' generally do not make this diagnosis.

    Approximately 25% of dyspraxic children are recognised when they start school. This has serious implications on the outcome of their education, especially when you consider the attitudes schools have toward dyspraxic children.

    This is of great concern as:

  • Many schools think that in 80% of (known) cases that the child will grow out of it.
  • 75.5% of teachers think that dyspraxic children are lazy and could try harder.
  • Over 50% of schools think the children are naughty or disruptive.
  • Over one third of schools blame bad parenting.

  • The Dyspraxia Foundation
  • The Conductive Education Website
  • What is Dyspraxia
  • Interacting with Young Children who have Dyspraxia
  • Development and Function of the Brain
  • The Dyspraxia Foundation of Ireland
  • Australian Dyspraxia Support Group and Resource Centre Incorporated
  • Apraxia Kids (United States) Information on Apraxia and Dyspraxia
  • RATHBONE- Special Education advice (at present under construction but with links that you can't get to at the moment)


    The Handwriting Interest Group

    6 Fyfield Road


    Essex CM5 0AH

    Special Education Consortium

    C/o Council for Disabled Children

    8 Wakley Street

    LondonEC1V 7QE

    Phone: 020 7843 6000

    Copies of: Special Educational Needs - Guide for Parents, and The Updated Parents Charter write to:

    DfEE Publications Centre

    PO Box 6927

    London E3 3NZ

    Or by ringing 0845 6022 260

    Bookmark on your Personal Space

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