It took nearly 60 years for my father to learn that he had dyspraxia. Without ever understanding why, my dad had failed his driving test eight times, stepped on strangers’ feet every time he tried to dance, and couldn’t follow a map. It wasn’t until his 10-year-old daughter (me!) was formally diagnosed with dyspraxia, or developmental coordination disorder, that it began to register.
It’s not a coincidence that my father and I both have dyspraxia, often referred to as DCD in the United States. Defined as a lifelong neurological disorder, it can be genetic. It primarily affects motor function (e.g., the ability to eat, speak, and move), alongside a Pandora’s box of other developmental symptoms. Alternately referred to as dysgraphia, dyspraxia, developmental coordination disorder (DCD), and specific developmental disorder of motor function (SDDMF), experts estimate that between 2 and 10 percent of the population has dyspraxia. Difficult to explain and complex to diagnose, the disorder boils down to this: Not all of the messages your brain is sending to your body are getting through. You’re not imagining it.
Sadly, the condition is often under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. “Few physicians and parents and teachers are even aware of developmental motor disorders,” says Deborah Dewey, a University of Calgary professor who specializes in DCD research.
For some people, dyspraxia can exist by itself. For others, it exists along with one or more disorders, including but not limited to: ADHD, autism, dyslexia, Aspergers’ syndrome, and sensory, social, or language disorders.
Here’s the good news: If you do have DCD — again, don’t self-diagnose, since dyspraxia can so often be confused with other disorders — there are treatment options. No, there’s no “cure” for dyspraxia. However, you can improve your motor skills with occupational therapy; pick up assistive technology tips from online communities; treat speech difficulties with speech therapy; and address any psychological issues with a licensed therapist and/or psychiatrist. You can get more information about how to get a diagnosis here.