I was diagnosed as dyspraxic at age 17, and it suddenly explained so much about my childhood of being the clumsy child, the one who couldn’t catch and struggled with practical skills.
Many dyspraxic people go undiagnosed, particularly because it’s still an under-discussed condition. Lots of us are simply seen as uncoordinated, or not trying hard enough.
Dyspraxia is also known as Developmental Co-Ordination Disorder (DCD), but like many terms for neurodivergences, this minimises the number of aspects of life it can affect, and means it is often assumed that we grow out of it as adults.
The bruises on my arms and legs confirm to me that I didn’t grow out of it – trust me!
What are some traits of dyspraxia?
Generally, dyspraxia affects fine and gross motor skills, for example, spatial awareness, handwriting, and practical activities. This might include:
-Cooking, such as grating cheese, using a tin opener or using knives
-Practical sports or activities, such as crafting or riding a bike
-Getting dressed or tying shoelaces
-Going to new places, such as understanding maps or directions
-Having poor balance and bumping into things
-Struggling with learning new skills
However, some traits of dyspraxia can be less obvious than simply physical activities, which can contribute to a lack of diagnosis or understanding of the condition. For example, struggling with:
-Time perception and organisation
-Verbal dyspraxia: struggling to coordinate movements for clear speech or taking longer to speak
-Following instructions (especially if there are multiple given at once)
-Bad posture, or struggling to sit up
-Memory, such as having accurate memories
-Personal hygiene, grooming or doing hair and make-up
-Being perceived as socially awkward or lacking confidence (sometimes as a result of being knocked down for your dyspraxic traits)
Many dyspraxic people, like myself, will experience it alongside other co-occurring conditions. Some of the traits can cross over which can make it harder to understand whether you are dyspraxic. For example, I am also autistic and ADHD, which have high co-occurring rates, whilst others may also be dyslexic.
If you are hypermobile (including having HSD or hEDS, like me), which is also commonly co-occurring, it can sometimes be difficult to know if you are dyspraxic due to this impacting your joints and your ability to do some of the things dyspraxia can affect, like throwing and catching, handwriting or using utensils.
During my dyspraxia testing, they took this into account when looking at my actions.
Assessment and diagnosis
An occupational therapist will often do this testing. Even though we know things like memory and time perception are part of dyspraxia, medical testing is primarily focused on physical tasks.
In the UK, you can go to your GP to start this process. I would recommend making a list of your traits and how they impact you both now and in childhood so they can get an understanding of the impact on your life. They might ask about work, university, school or general life.
It can be difficult, particularly in underfunded areas, to get an official assessment, like it is for other neurodivergences. Many perceive that a diagnosis cannot help you or isn’t necessary in adulthood.
Sometimes if you have a tangible reason they are more likely to refer you – for example, support in the workplace or at university.
Work, school and accommodations
There are a number of accommodations that can be made at work, school and university to support dyspraxic individuals. Some of these may need an official diagnosis, whereas others can be put in place without one. Examples include:
-Exam arrangements – different coloured paper, rest breaks, a separate room, extra time (some of these have to be approved by exam boards in the UK, but others can be put in place by your school)
-Interview and assessment changes – asking for questions in advance, having extra time to answer verbal questions or take written testing, understanding differences in body language or co-ordination, giving clear instructions
-Being given instructions in multiple or alternative formats, and one at a time
-Getting agendas, slides and plans before a meeting or class
-Having check-ins for deadlines or time-sensitive issues
-Using project management tools or support with to-do lists
-Recording meetings or classes for later use
-Quiet spaces/offices being available
-Typing instead of handwriting
-Software such as speech-to-text, mind-mapping, or read aloud
-Working part-time, reduced hours, working from home, or choosing your own hours
-Support in practical lessons
In the UK, you might qualify for support from Access to Work, Disabled Students Allowance, or benefits such as Personal Independence Payment.
Things you can put in place for yourself
As many of us say in the neurodiversity space, there are lots of things you can put in place for yourself without a diagnosis. Whether you have one or not, things you could try to support yourself include:
-Adaptive kitchen equipment (swing colanders changed my whole life)
-Different coloured paper or overlays
-Sitting down to do tasks rather than standing up and losing balance
-Using apps such as Tiimo for visual time management and organisation
One of the main things to know about accommodating dyspraxia is that it is different for everyone, so you shouldn’t be ashamed or frustrated if something doesn’t work. It can be a process of trial and error, but there are lots of things you can do and try alongside those you work with, those who educate you, and those around you who love you.
Charities such as the Dyspraxia Foundation have many resources about supporting dyspraxic individuals and dyspraxic adults that may help.
If you’re just now wondering if you might have dyspraxia, I wish you all the best with learning how to adapt your life!
You’re not just clumsy, uncoordinated or lazy – you are totally valid.