Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is a condition that affects motor coordination. Adults and children with dyspraxia often struggle with activities that require physical balance, gross and fine motor skills, such as cooking, following directions, playing sports, and driving. Some individuals may also experience difficulty with writing and using objects such as cutlery and tools.
Many individuals who have dyspraxia may notice that their family members have similar challenges. Keep reading to find out if dyspraxia is hereditary and the possible causes of the condition.
Whilst there is currently no established or agreed cause of dyspraxia, scientists believe that it is a result of a delay in the development of motor neurons. Motor neurons are a part of our central nervous system (CNS) and connect to muscles and organs throughout the body. These neurons directly control the muscle movements of individuals as they are responsible for transmitting signals throughout the body, from the spinal cord, to skeletal, and the smooth muscles (such as those in the stomach, intestines and iris of the eye, etc). If the motor neurons cannot function properly and form connections, it will take longer for the brain to process motor and sensory data. Whilst experts do not believe dyspraxia is a direct result of brain damage, they have offered several hypotheses, such as a family history of dyspraxia, and being born with either a low birth weight or prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy).
Experts have not been able to determine a cause for dyspraxia and it is not clear why coordination may be varied or unresponsive in some children and adults. As with many other neurodivergent conditions, a family history of dyspraxia may increase the likelihood of a child developing dyspraxia. Despite this, scientists have not been able to find which genes may be involved in the condition. When a child is being assessed for dyspraxia, the parent may realise that other members of the family or one of the parents may experience similar traits, such as difficulty coordinating both sides of the body, as well as poor posture, fatigue, and a preference for talking instead of undertaking practical tasks.
Like dyspraxia, autism also forms a part of the neurodivergent family and is a lifelong developmental condition. Autism is also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as traits can vary from mild to severe, and is usually accompanied by difficulties with social interaction, and language and communication. In contrast, dyspraxia affects movement and coordination, as a result of the brain having difficulty transmitting impulses to different parts of the body. This can lead to a lack of coordination, “clumsiness”, and an inability to express thoughts clearly. Despite this, dyspraxia does not affect one’s intellectual ability. There are some similarities between autism and dyspraxia and some individuals may present with traits of both, in addition to other neurodivergent conditions, such as dyslexia, ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and dyscalculia (mathematical learning difficulties). For example, individuals with autism and Asperger’s syndrome may present with impaired motor skills, problems with teamwork, and excessive worrying. However, autism is primarily a condition accompanied by difficulties with social interaction and communication, whilst dyspraxia is mainly accompanied by difficulties with motor skills.