Dyspraxia in Adults - Symptoms

People who have dyspraxia often find the routine tasks of daily life such as driving, household chores, cooking and grooming difficult. They can also find coping at work is hard. People with dyspraxia usually have a combination of problems, including:

Gross motor co-ordination skills (large movements):

  • 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 co-ordination. 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

Fine motor co-ordination skills (small movements):

  • 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

Poorly established hand dominance:

  • May use either hand for different tasks at different times

Speech and language:

  • 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

Eye movements:

  • 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):

  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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

Emotions as a result of difficulties experienced:

  • Tend to get stressed, depressed and anxious easily
  • May have difficulty sleeping
  • Prone to low self-esteem, emotional outbursts, phobias, fears, obsessions, compulsions and addictive behaviour

Many of these characteristics are not unique to people with dyspraxia and not even the most severe case will have all the above characteristics. But adults with dyspraxia will tend to have more than their fair share of co-ordination and perceptual difficulties.

The Dyspraxia Foundation Adult Sopport Group represents adults, some of whom have only been diagnosed as having dyspraxia recently and are coming to terms with this knowledge.

The Adult Support Group has published Living with Dyspraxia, a practical guide to living with and coping with dyspraxia as an adult.