Dyspraxia is characterized by motor coordination difficulties that impact a child’s success in daily and academic life, recreation, and play (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Children with dyspraxia have challenges completing everyday activities such as tying laces, cutting with scissors, handwriting, skipping, throwing, and catching, despite being of average or above average intelligence.

Many children with dyspraxia will have co-occurring language-based and non-verbal learning difficulties, attention challenges, and/or difficulties with memory, planning, and organisation. Despite their difficulties, children with dyspraxia can be successfully managed in the education setting through critical changes to learning environments, and adaptations to learning tools to help them reach their full potential.

Reference: American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

How DCD / Dyspraxia Affects Learning

  • Children with dyspraxia appear clumsy and awkward in the school environment. They have difficulties controlling and maintaining their posture, impacting their ability to complete learning activities and tasks. As they fatigue easily, they may be observed sliding from their chairs or choosing to lie down when others are sitting during a large group activity such as reading/circle time.
  • Lacking awareness of their own body position in space and the position of objects around them, children with dyspraxia can trip on desk or chair legs or other obstacles in their path, and/or bump into other pupils while in a queue, which can cause them to appear disruptive. They may struggle to plan the movements needed to sit down on a chair, climb stairs, or learn to jump up and down. Determining appropriate force, and timing movements in a coordinated way, can be equally problematic for these children, resulting in spilled juice boxes at break time and withdrawal from participating with their peers in physical education lessons or in the playground.
  • The motor problems present in children with dyspraxia, particularly if not identified early, can lead to challenging classroom behaviours such as frequent disruptions of the class and/or interference with other pupils, avoidance of work, and attention-seeking behaviours.
  • For more information on how dyspraxia affects learning by specific phase, click here.
  • For general information on dyspraxia, click here.
  • Reference: American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.


Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from the authors: CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

DCD / Dyspraxia: some key points

  • Dyspraxia occurs when poorly coordinated motor skills interfere with daily and academic functioning, and is observed on a continuum from mild to severe.
  • Children with dyspraxia are of average or above average intelligence. Motor skills are discrepant from other abilities.
  • Difficulties are seen when performing, but also learning new, age-appropriate motor skills.
  • Generalization of skills (catching a large ball to catching a small ball) and transfer of skills (stepping up a stair or stepping up a pavement) are challenging.
  • Children with dyspraxia are not lazy or ‘unmotivated’ – they work much harder than their peers and become exhausted due to the effort they expend. This persists even when they have practiced an activity many times, as they must continuously devote attention to tasks that never become automatic.
  • Currently there is no known cure for dyspraxia, and children do not ‘grow out of’ the condition. While they do not get worse over time, their challenges may become more apparent with increasing academic demands. They have to work harder and/or differently than their peers to achieve the same goals.
  • Despite their difficulties, pupils with dyspraxia can and do learn to perform some motor tasks quite well. They are most likely to be successful when changes are made to tasks, the environment, or others’ expectations of them.
  • Early identification, along with differentiated instructional approaches and modifications to learning activities and environments, are critical for effective long-term management.
  • Some pupils are affected by dyspraxia alone, while others have co-occurring learning, speech/language, and attention problems. Effective management will include educational strategies tailored to each child’s individual needs.
  • Focusing on children’s strengths will encourage them to stay positive, remain motivated, and persevere in the presence of challenges. This strengths-based approach will also help to diminish the impact of potential secondary consequences such as low self-worth and self-esteem and social isolation.
  • Trying out various strategies and observing how children with dyspraxia respond to those strategies can help to determine the most effective approaches to use.
  • As children with dyspraxia grow and develop, they will continue to experience difficulty when faced with the learning of new motor tasks, so it is critical that their abilities are matched to tasks and activities that will promote their success.
  • For more information on dyspraxia, click here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from the authors: CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.