Dyspraxia – What it is, challenges, how to overcome it.

This is a comprehensive article covering the symptoms, causes and challenges of Dyspraxia. Most importantly, at the end of the article, we go into detail about the most effective ways to support someone with Dyspraxia thrive in academics, and in life.

In this article we’ll cover:

Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyspraxia

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia Definition

Dyspraxia, also known as “clumsy child syndrome,” is a disorder which interferes with the ability to plan and execute skilled or non-habitual motor tasks. This often includes tasks like writing, tying shoelaces and physical activities. Fortunately, these issues can often be addressed by a Neurodevelopmental Movement Program.

References: [1], [2], [3], [10]

There are a three different types of dyspraxia:

  • Motor dyspraxia — causing problems with skills like writing, dressing or physical activities
  • Verbal dyspraxia — causing problems with speech
  • Oral dyspraxia — causing problems with movements of the mouth and tongue

Any given dyspraxic person may display varying degrees of difficulty within these three areas.

Read: How to Turn Your Child’s Dsypraxia into a Superpower

Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyspraxia

Synonyms of Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Developmental Motor Coordination Disorder, and Developmental Dyspraxia and Clumsy Child Syndrome.

Is dyspraxia classed as a learning disability?

Whether dyspraxia is classed as a learning disability depends on where you live. In the USA, dyspraxia is not classified as a learning disability. In the UK, dyspraxia is regarded as a specific learning disability. In Ireland, dyspraxia is listed as a physical and sensory disability.

Sources: [4], [11], [12]

Having said that, regarding the USA, dyspraxics often also have other ‘official’ learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ASD or ADHD, which may qualify them for special accommodations.

Read: Effective Tutoring for Dyspraxics

Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyspraxia

Is dyspraxia genetic?

Whether or not dyspraxia is genetic is a subject of some controversy. It does run in families, which suggests a genetic component, but to date there is no hard proof that dyspraxia is genetic. Ongoing research at the Oxford Brooks University is investigating this topic. [5]

Moreover, there are some well-established, non-genetic risk factors for dyspraxia including:

  • Premature birth, before the 37th week of pregnancy
  • Being born with a low birth weight
  • Birth difficulties
  • The mother drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs while pregnant

Source: [6, NHS]

Read: Effective Tutoring for Dyspraxics

Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyspraxia

How to Identify Dyspraxia

An official diagnosis of dyspraxia  (technically DCD)can be made by a clinical psychologist, an educational psychologist, a pediatrician, or an occupational therapist.

Here are some of the common symptoms of dyspraxia.

Symptoms of dyspraxia in infants:

  • Delays in reaching normal developmental milestones such as, taking slightly longer than expected to roll over, sit, crawl or walk.
  • Skipping normal developmental steps, for example ‘butt shuffling’ instead of crawling
  • Unusual body positions (postures) during their first year

Symptoms of dyspraxia in children:

  • Difficulty playing with toys that involve coordination, such as stacking bricks
  • Difficulty learning to eat with cutlery
  • Problems with movement and coordination
  • Difficulty with playground activities such as hopping, jumping, running, and catching or kicking a ball
  • Difficulty walking up and down stairs
  • Difficulty writing, drawing and using scissors
  • Difficulty getting dressed, doing up buttons and tying shoelaces
  • Difficulty keeping still – they may swing or move their arms and legs a lot
  • Bumping into objects, dropping things and falling over a lot.
  • Difficulty concentrating – they may have a poor attention span and find it difficult to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes
  • Difficulty following instructions and copying information
  • Difficulty organizing themselves and getting things done
  • Being slow to pick up new skills

Adapted from: [6, NHS]

Read: Effective Tutoring for Dyspraxics

Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyspraxia

Symptoms of dyspraxia in adults:

  • Problems with coordination, balance and movement
  • Difficulty learning new skills, thinking, and remembering information at work and home
  • Difficulty with daily living skills, such as dressing or preparing meals
  • Difficulty writing, typing, drawing and grasping small objects
  • Difficulty with time management, planning and personal organization skills

Adapted from: [7, NHS]

Read: Effective Tutoring for Dyspraxics

Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyspraxia

The Challenges of Dyspraxia

Looking at the list of symptoms of dyspraxia above, some of the problems of dyspraxia are obvious.

But as a result of these symptoms, children and adults often experience additional challenges in life.

At school other children can be brutal in mocking the clumsy kid who can’t write straight or tie their shoes. This can often lead to social isolation and depression.

When kids hit puberty and start thinking about dating, being the clumsy kid who can’t  play sports or put dance can be embarrassing and disheartening.

And there’s another thing, which we’ve seen time and time again in our work with dyspraxics over several decades…

Dyspraxic people just think and process information differently than most other people. While most people prefer to learn by example and then figure out the general concepts from the examples, dyspraxics tend to learn in the exact opposite way. 

They grasp the general concepts easily, with what we call ‘cloud’ thinking, but have difficulty learning from examples and procedures.

This means that they often just ‘know’ the right answer, but cannot explain how they got to the answer. Teachers then dismiss their answers as ‘just guessing’, leading to the dyspraxic student thinking they’re just stupid – which, in fact, they are not.

Plus, tests and exams require them to explain their thinking, and they often struggle with that.

More on this topic when we get to how to tutor dyspraxic students.

Short course via Zoom: How to Understand and Support a Child with Dyspraxia

Can Dyspraxics Truly Thrive in School and in Life?

The short answer is, Yes!

For example, it is widely believed that Albert Einstein was dyspraxic. He didn’t learn to tie his shoelaces until he was 15. And – you know – he’s considered one of the greatest scientific geniuses of the 20th century.

Your child may never be an olympic gold medalist, but a leader in their field – for sure. There are plenty of famous people who are dyspaxic.

Famous People with Dyspraxia

    • Albert Einstein – Genius
    • Daniel Radcliffe – Actor
    • Jamie Oliver – Celebrity chef
    • Jack Kerouac – Writer
    • Cara Delevingne – Supermodel & Actor
    • Florence Welch – Singer/Songwriter
    • David Bailey – Photographer
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Poet
    • Gilbert Keith Chesterton Writer and philosopher

But to truly thrive as a dyspraxic, getting the right support can be a game changer.

Unfortunately, traditional approaches to tutoring dyspraxics can work against their natural talents and make life harder for them.

So let’s get into the essential things to look for in a dyspraxia tutor…

Effective Tutoring for Dyspraxics

In this section, we’ll cover the two essential things to look for in a dyspraxia tutor.

The advice here is based on our decades of experience tutoring students with dyspraxia and other neurodiversities such as ASD (Autism/Aspergers), dyslexia and ADD/ADHD.

Whether you’re looking for a dyspraxia GCSE tutor, A Level tutor, IB tutor, maths tutor, BTEC tutor, primary level tutor, degree level tutor or tutoring for all ages, you’ll find what you need here.

So, here are the two essential things to look for to find the best dyspraxia tutors:

  1. Study skills tutoring, not subject matter tutoring
  2. Neurodevelopmental expertise

Let’s go into those two things in more detail…

1. Study Skills Tutoring

Almost all tutors out there are subject matter tutors. 

What does that mean? 

Well, it means that they tutor their students in specific subjects like math, biology, reading and writing, etc.

But dyspraxic kids don’t learn and think like most ‘normal’ kids.

So when traditional subject matter tutors try to teach them as if they were just like every other student, they may learn to get by, but it’s unlikely they’ll thrive.

In contrast, a study skills tutor does not teach a specific subject. Rather, they teach your child how they can learn most effectively

They teach your child:

  • How to work with the limitations of their dyspraxia
  • How to understand and appreciate the particular genius that dyspraxics have
  • And perhaps most importantly, how to bridge the gap between
    • Their unique thinking style and 
    • How their teachers and others around them expect them to explain their thinking in order to get good grades

Fundamentally, a study skills tutor teaches your dyspraxic child how to learn and how to communicate their thinking to get good grades.

Once your child has learned how to learn, they’ll get much more out of their regular classes and tutoring from any specific subject matter tutors they work with in the future. 

Before meeting Margo I was mostly getting B’s.

Now with her help and expertise almost all of my essays are getting an A+.

The most important thing that Margo has taught me is to believe in myself.

And that is a lesson that I can’t thank her enough for!


So, when considering a dyspraxia tutor for your child, we recommend starting with a specialized study skills tutor.

If a tutor’s profile starts by listing the subjects they teach, and then at the end has something like “Special Educational Needs: Aspergers, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Autism, Dyspraxia” that’s an indicator that they’re most likely a subject matter tutor, not a study skills tutor.

Look for the profiles that start with their focus on study skills tutoring and dyspraxia. It’s fine if they also mention subjects they have expertise in, but that should be near the end of their profile, not the beginning.

Read: Dyspraxia Success Stories

2. Neurodevelopmental Movement Programs

At its core, dyspraxia is the result of issues with neurological development.

Thus, supporting your child’s neurological development is key – for their academic success and for their life in general.

This is where the field of neurodevelopmental movement comes in.

Quite simply, neurodevelopmental movement gives your child a way to fill in the neurodevelopmental steps that they somehow missed along the way.

Madeleine Portwood has written extensively about this approach in her book Developmental Dyspraxia: Identification and Intervention: A Manual for Parents and Professionals. [8]

HANDLE® providers are also trained to develop Neurodevelopmental Movement Programs for individual students. [9]

Neuroscientists at the Harborview Medical Center have shown that the HANDLE approach can be effective in addressing issues even as severe as chronic traumatic brain injury. The neurodevelopmental issues of dyspraxics are generally much less severe than traumatic brain injury, and so it is reasonable to assume, easier to address. [10]

So, we recommend looking for a dyspraxia tutor with expertise in creating a Neurodevelopmental Movement Program for your child. The plan should be based on observing your child in real life situations and 100% customized to your child.


When I started working with Oxford Specialist Tutors, I had difficulty absorbing written text. The only things that would keep my attention were things like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. 

Now I’m able to focus not just on reading the words, but what these words are describing. I recently finished reading a book, and when I was done, I was able to tell people what happened in the book from beginning to end.

Also, I was very clumsy, bumping into things and having serious falls with remarkable frequency.

I’ve had only one fall recently. But that was after going to the gym and I think I overstrained myself.

The last time I fell before that? It’s been so long that I can’t even remember!

So my balance and coordination have improved a lot. 

My self confidence has improved a lot too. And for the first time in my life, my family has started to take me seriously.



Read about Roisin’s experience and results in her Neurodevelopmental Programme: Roisin’s Story

NOTE: You do not necessarily need to find a single person who is both a study skills tutor and a neurodevelopmental movement expert. The two are closely related and some individuals have both skills, but it’s fine if you find two people to fill the two roles, so long as they work together closely.

Online vs. In-Person Tutoring

Unfortunately, these two simple criteria eliminate most dyspraxia tutors you’ll find online. Finding a great dyspraxia tutor near you might be impossible.

Considering an online tutor opens up a lot more options, but does it really work?

It’s probably obvious that study skills tutoring works well online, but what about neurodevelopmental movement support? Wouldn’t that need to be in person?

Well, it turns out, no.

In the old days, to develop a Neurodevelopmental Movement Program for a new client, we used to drive or fly to meet with the child and family, and observe them in person.

This creates the obvious challenges of travel time, costs and scheduling. 

But the bigger problem was that by flying in we could only observe a child for a limited amount of time in one specific situation. We couldn’t get a full picture of the child doing a wide range of activities in their daily lives. 

Fortunately, the Internet and smartphones have saved us from that.

It turns out that the best way to gather the observational information is for the parents and caregivers to take short video clips of the child going about their daily life – in all the different environments the child visits, doing a range of different activities.

With this collection of video clips, the neurodevelopmental movement expert can gather much richer and more complete information than was ever possible through in-person visits.

Then the remainder of the developmental program can easily be done online. Typically the expert will show the parents simple activities to practice with their child. Then all the actual neurodevelopmental activities are done as structured ‘play’ time between the parents and their child.

If the child is in their teens, the tutor may also work with the child directly online.

So these days we’d say that the most important thing is to find the best tutor (or tutoring team) for your child. So long as your schedules match up, there’s no particular advantage or disadvantage to having a local tutor vs. an online tutor.

Find The Best Dyspraxia Tutor

Before meeting Margo I was mostly getting B’s.

Now with her help and expertise almost all of my essays are getting an A+.

The most important thing that Margo has taught me is to believe in myself.

And that is a lesson that I can’t thank her enough for!


If you would like to talk with one of our experts to discuss what would be the best approach to tutoring your dyspraxic child, book a free consultation today.


Additional Resources

What to do When Your Child is Diagnosed with Dyspraxia

Approaches to Tutoring Dyspraxic Children

The Hand Holding Method


References to Dyspraxia Research

[1] Ayres, A. Jean. Sensory integration and learning disorders. Western Psychological Services, 1972.

[2] Ayres, A. J. (1972). Types of sensory integrative dysfunction among disabled learners. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 26(1), 13–18.

[3] D. Dewey, What Is Developmental Dyspraxia, Brain and Cognition, Volume 29, Issue 3, 1995, Pages 254-274,ISSN 0278-2626


[5] Oxford Brooks University

[6, NHS] Developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia) in children

[7, NHS] Dyspraxia (developmental co-ordination disorder) in adults

[8] Environmental Factors: Their effect on the incidence of ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia

[9] The HANDLE Institute – What is HANDLE

[10] Philipp Ritt, Torsten Kuwert, Quantitative SPECT/CT—Technique and Clinical Applications, Molecular Imaging in Oncology, 10.1007/978-3-030-42618-7_17, (565-590), (2020).

[11] University of St. Andrews

[12] National Council for Special Education

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