From what I hear it is fairly easy to get a diagnosis of Dyspraxia in children; all you need to do is take your child to a GP who would be able to refer your child to a specialist who can help. Yet when it comes to getting a diagnosis of Dyspraxia in adults, this is not at all the case. Unless you are able to afford to get a private diagnosis or lucky enough to get one through an educational institution, it is nearly impossible to get an official diagnosis of Dyspraxia in adults!
For many adults with Dyspraxia however a diagnosis may be too little too late. The reason I say this is because whilst it is certainly nice to have an official explanation for a number of the difficulties that you have faced in your life, it probably won’t be of much help. While you could use it to tell your current or future employers that you need a bit more extra help with your work, unfortunately it doesn’t mean you’d necessarily receive it. For whilst by law, employers are meant to accommodate for those with disabilities, whether many actually do is hard to define.
Fortunately for many adults, they won’t need an actual diagnosis for the traits and symptoms that they display are pretty good indicators that they are Dyspraxic. This leads me on to the topic of this article; what are the typical traits of Dyspraxia in adults?
Characteristics Of Dyspraxia In Adults
It should be said from the outset that many of the traits of Dyspraxia are similar to traits of other hidden disabilities. This can be seen in the previous article I wrote; ‘Dyspraxia And Dyslexia: What Is The Difference?’ where I outline some of the similarities between these two conditions.
Having said that though, if a person seems to demonstrate a number of traits which fall into Dyspraxia, then this can be seen as strong evidence that this is Dyspraxia. So what exactly are the traits that come across in adults with Dyspraxia. Please remember that not every adult will have the same symptoms.
So what are these symptoms? Well they are;
Gross motor coordination skills
Gross motor coordination skills are essentially the use of large muscles in the arms, torso and legs. These muscles are used to help us achieve whole body movements. Unfortunately when it comes to Dyspraxia, our brains can often mess up sending the correct signals to the right muscles at the right time. As such we can struggle with various actions which require our entire bodies.
According to the Dyspraxia Foundation website, the areas with which one can struggle with Gross Motor Coordination Skills include;
Poor balance. Difficulty in riding a bicycle, going up and down hills
Poor posture and fatigue. Difficulty in standing for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone. Floppy, unstable round the joints. Some people with dyspraxia may have flat feet
Poor integration of the two sides of the body. Difficulty with some sports involving jumping and cycling
Poor hand-eye coordination. Difficulty with team sports especially those which involve catching a ball and batting. Difficulties with driving a car
Lack of rhythm when dancing, doing aerobics
Clumsy gait and movement. Difficulty changing direction, stopping and starting actions
Exaggerated ‘accessory movements’ such as flapping arms when running
Tendency to fall, trip, bump into things and people
Personally I know of a few incidents of Dyspraxia in Adults, many of whom do struggle with some of the above issues. I myself used to struggle with many of these issues as a child but as I got additional support for my Dyspraxia, most of these issues for me have been ironed out; either by directly tackling them or finding strategies to get around them!
Fine motor coordination skills (small movements)
Adults who have Dyspraxia can also struggle with fine motor coordination skills as well. These are skills which rely on the use of small muscles in our hands and wrists. In many jobs (like office based) one is required to use their hands and wrists for tasks like writing, typing, etc. As such to have trouble with fine motor coordination skills can cause issues with employment; as well as outside of work as well.
Lack of manual dexterity. Poor at two-handed tasks, causing problems with using cutlery, cleaning, cooking, ironing, craft work, playing musical instruments
Poor manipulative skills. Difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing. May have a poor pen grip, press too hard when writing and have difficulty when writing along a line
Inadequate grasp. Difficulty using tools and domestic implements, locks and keys
Difficulty with dressing and grooming activities, such as putting on makeup, shaving, doing hair, fastening clothes and tying shoelaces
Speech and language
Out of all the ways in which my Dyspraxia has affected me, I would say speech and language happens to be one of my worst. While I am able to mostly communicate effectively, I still find I often put the wrong word in the wrong place when trying to structure my language. Also if I am stressed, I tend to find that my language goes out the window.
Yet in regards to how speech and language is affected by Dyspraxa in adults, the Dyspraxia Foundation website outlines some of the various ways, these being;
May talk continuously and repeat themselves. Some people with dyspraxia have difficulty with organising the content and sequence of their language
May have unclear speech and be unable to pronounce some words
Speech may have uncontrolled pitch, volume and rate
When I used to get regular help for my Dyspraxa during my school years, one thing I remember the physiotherapist doing a few times was moving their finger slowly up and down as well as side to side across my field of vision. And whilst doing this, I was supposed to follow it with my eyes without moving my head. Personally I don’t recall having much trouble with this but I am aware that with many adults who have Dyspraxia, eye movements can be an issue. These can be;
Tracking. Difficulty in following a moving object smoothly with eyes without moving head excessively. Tendency to lose the place while reading
Poor relocating. Cannot look quickly and effectively from one object to another (for example, looking from a TV to a magazine)
Perception (interpretation of the different senses)
For many adults who have Dyspraxia (particularly if they never received any help with their Dyspraxia) perception can be a bit of a nightmare. Speaking for myself I have never been a fan of night clubs, due to the loud noises which has made it hard for one to be able to communicate with others. Yet loud noises are by far not the only trait which effects those of us with Dyspraxia for those mentioned in the Dyspraxia Foundation website are;
Poor visual perception
Over-sensitive to light
Difficulty in distinguishing sounds from background noise. Tendency to be over-sensitive to noise
Over- or under-sensitive to touch. Can result in dislike of being touched and/or aversion to over-loose or tight clothing — tactile defensiveness
Over- or under-sensitive to smell and taste, temperature and pain
Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships. Can result in bumping into and tripping over things and people, dropping and spilling things
Little sense of time, speed, distance or weight. Leading to difficulties driving, cooking
Inadequate sense of direction. Difficulty distinguishing right from left means map reading skills are poor
Learning, thought and memory
Earlier on in the Speech and Language section of this article, I mentioned that it was those two which affected me the most. Well if that is the case, then the criteria outlined in learning, thought and memory are certainly a close second behind. For I have terrible issues with short term memory. I don’t know if you are the same but I often find that I can walk into a room and instantly forget why I went in. Or I would be in mid-flow of a conversation and suddenly what I was saying would just pop out of my mind.
Anyhow when it comes to learning, thought and memory, the following is a list of traits that can affect us adults with Dyspraxia;
Difficulty in planning and organising thought
Poor memory, especially short-term memory. May forget and lose things
Unfocused and erratic. Can be messy and cluttered
Poor sequencing causes problems with maths, reading and spelling and writing reports at work
Accuracy problems. Difficulty with copying sounds, writing, movements, proofreading
Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at a time
Difficulty with concentration. May be easily distracted
May do only one thing at a time properly, though may try to do many things at once
Slow to finish a task. May daydream and wander about aimlessly
Emotion and Behaviour
Emotions and behaviour can be affected by Dyspraxia; something which I didn’t really learn till I was an adult (or maybe because as a child I never really appreciated it). Anyhow according to the Dyspraxia Foundation website, the following is a list of ways which Dyspraxia can affect our emotions and behaviours. These are;
Difficulty in listening to people, especially in large groups. Can be tactless, interrupt frequently. Problems with team work
Difficulty in picking up non-verbal signals or in judging tone or pitch of voice in themselves and or others. Tendency to take things literally. May listen but not understand
Slow to adapt to new or unpredictable situations. Sometimes avoids them altogether
Impulsive. Tendency to be easily frustrated, wanting immediate gratification
Tendency to be erratic ñ have ‘good and bad days’
Tendency to opt out of things that are too difficult
I shall not go into too much detail but needless to say, the ways in which Dyspraxia can affect our emotions and behaviour can make socialising as well as work even harder than for those who don’t have Dyspraxia. And particularly in the working environment, Dyspraxia can make us seem like we are lazy or disinterested by the work when in reality it is just that our minds get more easily distracted than most.
If you are an adult who suspects they may have Dyspraxia but are unable to get a diagnosis, then I hope that you are able to use this list as a form of self-diagnosis. Even though self-diagnosis doesn’t mean you won’t be able to request help from your employers, etc, at the very least it can provide you with some peace of mind; for knowing why you are the way you are can be beneficial.
If you would like to know more about Dyspraxia in adults, then I would recommend you reading my book ‘Dyspraxia; How To Thrive As An Adult.’
Also if you would like any further support, by all means do join the Facebook group which I am running for those with Dyspraxia, called the Dyspraxia Support Group.