Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

December 18, 2017

Clumsy or Dyspraxia? Read more from C&FD physical therapists


Image result for boy tripping

Many moms and dads who contact Child & Family Development report that their child is ‚Äúa little clumsy‚Äù.  In many instances, it can be difficult to recognize if this is simply part of development and adjusting to a growing body or an area to be explored more specifically. The explanation may be developmental dyspraxia.


The physical therapy team provides this explanation. 


Developmental dyspraxia is a motor learning difficulty that can affect planning of movements and coordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body. 


Do you describe a child in these ways?

¬∑         Bumping into things all the time, or accident-prone

¬∑         Inability or difficulty with skipping, jumping rope or climbing

¬∑         Strong but not very coordinated

¬∑         Falling out of chairs, knocking things over or messy

¬∑         Awkward or difficulty walking or running

¬∑         Difficulty playing, participating, or insecurities with sports or games


Children with dyspraxia have particular problems learning new motor skills and activities and coordinating the upper and lower limbs of the body. To efficiently move through the environment and learn new skills, the body relies on sensory systems- tactile (touch), vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (how muscles perceive actions). If these systems are not properly integrated, a child appears clumsy.


Some characteristics of developmental dyspraxia are:

¬∑         Awkward gait movement

¬∑         Decreased sense of body awareness

¬∑         Emotional lability, sensitivity or appears distracted

¬∑         Difficulty judging distances

¬∑         Difficulty imitating body positions 

¬∑         Poor balance

¬∑         Poor sequencing of activities

¬∑         Poor short and/or long term memory

¬∑         Slow movement planning and reaction times in both fine motor gross motor 


Even if only a few of these characteristics are noted in a child, an evaluation could be the first step to address the issue. While there is no cure for dyspraxia, a trained pediatric occupational therapist or physical therapist can assist the child in learning ways to improve their motor planning abilities and becoming more successful with gross motor learning and performance.


Current data notes that 6% of all children ages 5-11 have a developmental coordination disorder. It is important to note that motor difficulties are likely to coexist with several other diagnoses, including:

¬∑         Auditory Processing Disorder

¬∑         Executive Function Disorder

¬∑         Hypotonia

¬∑         Low Birth Weight

¬∑         Sensory Processing Disorder


There are treatment options for developmental dyspraxia.  There are several types of praxis (movement) that may be addressed in therapy. These types include: oral, sequential, postural, constructional, and praxis on verbal command. 


Research shows that a combination of strength and coordination goals, as well as work on specific functional skills (climbing stairs, skipping) is most effective. A therapist can, through play and exploration of new motor activities, address the affected area(s) of praxis and improve overall motor planning and abilities. 


Advanced training and techniques are used in treatment of developmental dyspraxia:

¬∑         E-Stimulation (E-Stim) 

¬∑         Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT)‚Ñ¢

¬∑         Sensory Integration

¬∑         Total Motion Release (TMR)¬Æ



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You can find C&FD listed under Health & Beauty: Medical Practices, Mental Health Services, Physical therapy, Speech therapy