What Causes Dyspraxia?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2016
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Dyspraxia is a disorder involving the impairment of fine and large motor skills. The cause of this disorder is unknown, but it is thought to either be genetic or result from improper development of the motor neurons which communicate information from the brain to the muscles. Developmental dyspraxia is present at or discovered soon after birth, and may result from poor health or the use of narcotics during pregnancy, premature birth, or abnormal birth weights. Acquired dyspraxia occurs later in life and is typically the result of a head injury, stroke, or a severe illness with brain swelling. Regardless of the cause, the earlier this problem is identified and treated the better the prognosis.

The exact cause of dyspraxia is not known. Neurologists believe that it may be caused by the underdevelopment of motor neurons, motor neurons forming the wrong connections, or from damage to the motor neurons. As a result, information, such as movement and hand-eye coordination, does not get transferred from the brain to the appropriate muscles. People suffering from this disorder have poor or no muscle control, impacting such areas of function as movement, speech, and perception.


Developmental dyspraxia is present at birth or becomes apparent during early childhood, and several problems are suspected of causing this type of dyspraxia. This disorder may be caused by the mother’s use of alcohol, cigarettes, or illegal drugs during pregnancy. When the mother is severely underweight, suffers a serious, prolonged illness, or has to deal with a restrictive food allergy during pregnancy it may impact the development of the motor neurons and result in this condition. Premature birth, a severely low birth weight, or an extremely high birth weight are also factors associated with this problem. This condition also tends to run in families, suggesting that there may also be a genetic component contributing to the development of this disorder.

Acquired dyspraxia occurs after birth, following a head injury, illness, or stroke. Head injuries which cause this disorder typically involve damage to the brain from swelling or bruising. Illnesses leading to this condition can involve damage from brain swelling or a lack of oxygen, known as hypoxia, to the brain. When stroke causes this motor neuron problem, it is typically the result of hypoxia of the brain. Sometimes, acquired dyspraxia will only be temporary, and will resolve once the head injury heals or the illness passes and the brain stops swelling and returns to normal.


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Post 5

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It is encouraging to hear from those who have gotten over the rough patches of dyspraxia in childhood. I have both dyspraxia and dyslexia and know I have to work harder than most students, even though I am bright.

Post 4

For those whose children have verbal dyspraxia, I want to wish you good luck. I'm 22 now and studied at university, but as a child I had speech problems. I think I was diagnosed with Verbal Dyspraxia because that's what my parents tell me.

It's hard to say at what age it 'disappeared,' but I was about 15 at the time. I also had braces on my teeth which also made it harder to talk, but after I took them off my friends thought the braces were the reason.

It did affect my childhood. I got bullied at times (verbal not physical) and had very messy writing even in secondary school.

Nonetheless, I just wanted to say that my family

and speech therapist had put a lot of bloody effort in, as did others but most especially my parents who, every night, helped me with reading. So with a lot of effort it is possible to 'overcome' it.

Also, one last note. If the child puts in a lot of effort over a certain 'sound' that they find hard, then they will one day be able to pronounce it. I couldn't pronounce 's' properly, but for more than an entire year I went to a mosque (religious school) and just read a very short chapter of the Quran which contained a lot of "s". Over time, my pronunciation of it improved. Good luck to all. Kind regards, Hassan (or as I used to say, Hashan)

Post 3

@bluespirit - I know exactly what you are looking for, though to know if your family member is struggling with reading for this reason would take a series of tests for me to know!

The article you are looking for is "What is dyslexia?"

Dyslexia is a reading disorder that effects quite a bit of the population (I work in special education), but one thing that I find interesting about it, is that it typically does not coincide with IQ scores.

Meaning that there is not a strong correlation between below average IQ scores and dyslexia. Anyway, you should definitely read more about it, as there are a ton of great resources for people with dyslexia.

Post 2

I think I am confusing this term with another term. I have a family member struggling with reading and I was trying to find out what might be the cause for their struggle.

But after reading that dyspraxia is about motor planning, I am not thinking that I looked up the right term, any ideas on a reading disorder that might sound like dyspraxia?

Post 1

I have actually seen childhood dyspraxia of speech in my profession (often called apraxia) and it can sometimes look like a severe articulation disorder instead of dyspraxia so make sure to ask the speech language pathologist (often called speech therapist) which disorder they think it is.

With dyspraxia in a child or a severe articulation disorder, the child is typically very difficult to understand as opposed to other articulation disorders where you can hear the sounds that are being articulated wrong, but can still understand the child's overall message.

Also of note, if you do find out that your child has dyspraxia (or apraxia) of speech then know that their is an dyspraxia foundation where you can find

support and inspirational stories from other people with dyspraxia from children to adults.

And as a professional, please know that if the therapist sends home practice worksheets for your child, please practice them at home. Children with dyspraxia do get worn out from practice but the therapist can make appropriate changes to the amount and type of practice with parental and/or child input (depending on the age of the child).

What I think is interesting is that there are other dyspraxias! Because my schooling focused on speech, I only knew about that one.

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