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The term ‘dyspraxia’ is used in many different ways by different people, which can cause confusion. Some use it interchangeably with ‘DCD’ to mean the same thing. Others use it to refer to something quite different. Unlike DCD, there is no internationally agreed formal definition or description of the term ‘dyspraxia’ and it is not included in DSM-5. Despite this, in the UK the term ‘dyspraxia’ is sometimes used in a very broad way to refer to children who have motor difficulties plus difficulties with: speech, organisation, planning, sequencing, working memory and various other psychological, emotional and social problems. However, there is little research evidence to support such a broad diagnostic category. At what age should a diagnosis of DCD be given?

It is not recommended for a formal diagnosis of DCD to be given before 5 years of age. This is because there is a lot of variation in children’s development before this age and also variations in the opportunities children have to experience motor skill. However, this does not mean that a child who appears to be delayed in their motor skills before the age of 5 should not be closely monitored, or some form of intervention given. The child can be informally noted as having movement difficulties and appropriate actions taken to support the child’s needs.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a common developmental disorder that is diagnosed when an individual has severe difficulties in learning everyday motor skills, which cannot be explained by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment. Motor difficulties are seen as clumsiness, as well as slowed and inaccurate performance of motor skills. These affect all activities including dressing, using utensils and ball skills. Academic performance is also affected by the motor difficulties. The difficulties may be considered to be mild, moderate or severe.

A diagnosis of DCD is usually undertaken by different professionals as a part of an interdisciplinary team, after gathering information from the child, parents, and school to see how the difficulties impact on every day life. You may need to approach your GP for a referral to an interdisciplinary team. That team would consider the information about your child’s coordination and conduct a formal, standardised assessment looking at your child’s co-ordination. They will also rule out other reasons for your child’s motor difficulties (e.g. Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy).