Dyspraxia Overview

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a condition which affects physical coordination, causing the person to move in a clumsy manner. This can affect walking, driving and writing, as well as balance more generally. Up to 10% of the UK has mild dyspraxia, with 2% being more seriously affected.

What are the signs and symptoms of dyspraxia?

People with dyspraxia experience different symptoms and may struggle with different sorts of tasks. Their symptoms may also evolve over time. Some examples of signs of dyspraxia in an individual may include:

  • Difficulties with balance and movement
  • With daily tasks requiring physical coordination such as getting dressed and cooking
  • Activities requiring fine motor skills such as writing and manipulating small objects

Certain cognitive functions may also be affected. For example:

  • Planning and organisation
  • Interacting in social settings
  • Learning new skills
  • Remembering information
  • Processing one’s own emotions

How does dyspraxia get diagnosed and treated?

Someone who is having difficulties with coordination can go to their GP, who can then refer them to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist for the relevant tests and assessments.

They may also test for other conditions which commonly occur in people with dyspraxia, such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

There is no cure for dyspraxia, but there are some ways in which people with the condition can manage their symptoms. Occupational therapy can help people with dyspraxia develop day-to-day skills such as preparing food.

Other ways in which the impact of symptoms can be reduced include regular exercise to help with coordination and fatigue, using a computer if handwriting is challenging and using a diary to help with organisation.

There are a few ways to determine whether an employee with dyspraxia might require reasonable adjustments:

The employee may or may not wish to disclose their dyspraxia, as many people have developed strategies for ‘masking’ their dyspraxia by the time they reach adulthood. Regardless, questions regarding the nature of any additional needs and what extra support may be required can be broached sensitively. For example:

  • Have they required adjustments in the past? It may be easy to assume that someone with obvious physical symptoms of dyspraxia will require a certain level of support in the workplace, but each person has different tasks they may struggle with, just like an able-bodied employee and intellectually, people with dyspraxia operate the same as other people.
  • Diagnostic reports can be provided by an occupational therapist as proof of requirement for reasonable adjustments. Reports from the person’s time at school such as Education Health and Care Plans (ECHPs) can also fulfil this function.

What reasonable adjustments are possible for employees with dyspraxia?

Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with dyspraxia if they know, are aware of, or could ‘reasonably be expected to know’ that the employee has dyspraxia. Most employees will tell their employer what reasonable adjustments they need. They often involve simple changes in the way an employer might usually do things.

If the employee does not disclose a health issue or disability which may affect their performance upfront, an employer should broach the subject sensitively if they suspect that there may be a disability behind the employee’s reduced performance. Reasonable adjustments can then be made in accordance with the employee’s needs, including, in the case of dyspraxia:

  • Extra time to complete tasks to accommodate difficulties the person may have with planning, organising or writing, for example.
  • A flexible dress code so as not to alienate someone with dyspraxia who may have difficulties dressing themselves.
  • Assistive technology, such as to reduce the employee’s reliance on note-taking by hand if their fine motor skills are affected.
  • Sensory adjustments, for example, reducing background noise to aid with concentration.
  • Raising awareness so that colleagues understand the employee’s dyspraxia and can help ensure the employee feels comfortable at work. This might involve learning more about the condition to gain a better understanding of what the employee might be facing day-to-day.

Dyspraxia Signposting

Dyspraxia UK – a charity providing assessments for children and adults and specialising in dyspraxia-specific occupational therapy, as well as training for teachers and employers on how to deal with pupils’ and employees’ dyspraxia (01223 967897).

Dyspraxia Foundation – a charity which spreads information about the condition, particularly to health and education professionals (01462 454986).

Movement Matters – an umbrella group bringing together the main national groups who advocate for people with dyspraxia. It raises awareness of the condition and provides guidance on its management to clinicians, families and teachers.

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