Are Dyspraxia and DCD the Same Thing?
Q. At her first evaluation, we were told our daughter has dyspraxia. But at her most recent one, the evaluator said it was really something called developmental coordination disorder. Are they the same thing?
A. This is such an important question on a topic that can be confusing to many parents. Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy way to answer it.
Some people use the terms dyspraxia and DCD interchangeably. They’re not the same thing, however. Dyspraxia is a term you may hear when your child struggles with certain skills in development. These skills can include movement and coordination. But they might also include trouble with organization, speech, memory, social and emotional skills and sensory processing.
Some professionals use this term when kids have trouble with a group of these skills. But it’s not a formal diagnosis.
The diagnosis for difficulty with movement and coordination is developmental coordination disorder (DCD). DCD is a disorder that’s defined as an impairment in the learning of coordination and motor skills.
DCD refers to a narrower group of difficulties than dyspraxia does. It covers motor skills, motor planning, coordination and balance. When kids also struggle with other developmental skills, it’s not considered to be part of DCD. It’s in addition to DCD.
There’s another big difference between DCD and dyspraxia. DCD is a well-defined and studied condition. There’s no international agreement on a definition for dyspraxia. There’s also no criteria for diagnosing it.
That’s actually why many researchers worldwide stopped using the term dyspraxia in 1994. At a forum on dyspraxia in the United Kingdom, people from different fields couldn’t agree on a definition for it. So they started using DCD instead.
Most professionals use the term DCD now. That’s especially true when they’re talking about the diagnosis for movement issues. But some may still use the term dyspraxia, particularly with young children.
People sometimes say that dyspraxia is a more common term in the U.K. than it is here in the United States. It’s true that the U.K. has a longer history of exploring these conditions than we do. But the consensus to use DCD instead of dyspraxia actually came from the U.K.! So, I wouldn’t say they use the term dyspraxia more or less than they do anywhere else.
This all can be very confusing. If you’re wondering which term to use, I recommend DCD, especially if you’re looking for a recognition of and services for the condition. There are many supports and services your child’s school can provide to help with DCD. Occupational therapy can help improve movement and coordination skills, whether it’s done in school or privately. There are also ways to work with your child at home.
Keep in mind, too, that DCD and dyspraxia commonly co-occur with other learning and attention issues, along with mental health issues like anxiety. So be sure to talk with your child’s doctor about your child’s unique struggles and how to treat them.