Dyspraxia, or developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a neurological condition that intricately intertwines with an individual’s ability to plan, organise, and execute movements. From fine motor skills to spatial awareness, dyspraxia touches various aspects of life, influencing not only physical activities but also social interactions and academic pursuits.
Statistics reveal a stark reality in the diagnosis landscape, particularly in the United Kingdom. It has been observed that women often receive a diagnosis much later in life, with the average age reaching 22 years, compared to the age of 17 for men. This raises critical questions about how dyspraxia manifests differently in women and why the diagnosis gap exists.
In this blog, we will explore the nuanced symptoms that may go unnoticed in women, the impact of societal expectations, and the need for heightened awareness among educators, healthcare providers, and parents. As we navigate through the intricacies of dyspraxia, we aim to bridge the information gap and foster a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by women with this condition.
Presentation of Symptoms
Boys with dyspraxia often exhibit more noticeable and overt motor difficulties, such as challenges in gross motor skills, coordination, and sports activities. These visible symptoms may lead to earlier recognition and diagnosis.
Girls with dyspraxia may demonstrate more subtle signs. They may compensate for their motor difficulties by developing coping strategies or focusing on activities that do not emphasise their coordination challenges. As a result, their symptoms might go unnoticed or be attributed to other factors. Common symptoms of dyspraxia in women include:
Dyspraxia, or developmental coordination disorder (DCD), can manifest differently in women compared to men. It’s important to note that individuals with dyspraxia may experience a combination of these symptoms, and the severity can vary. Here is a list of common symptoms of dyspraxia in women:
1. Fine Motor Skills Difficulties
– Challenges with tasks that require precise hand movements, such as writing, buttoning, or using utensils.
– Difficulty with activities that involve intricate hand-eye coordination, like threading a needle or applying makeup.
2. Gross Motor Skills Challenges
– Poor balance and coordination during physical activities, such as running, jumping, or playing sports.
– Difficulty with activities that involve spatial awareness and navigating the environment, like bumping into objects or frequently tripping.
3. Speech and Language Issues
– Articulation difficulties and challenges with pronunciation.
– Slow processing of verbal information, leading to delays in responding during conversations.
4. Organisational and Planning Problems
– Difficulty organising thoughts and tasks, both mentally and physically.
– Challenges with time management and planning daily activities.
5. Spatial Awareness Issues
– Difficulty judging distances and spatial relationships, leading to clumsiness or bumping into objects.
– Challenges with tasks that require a sense of direction, such as reading maps or following instructions with spatial components.
6. Sensory Sensitivities
– Heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as light, noise, or touch.
– Difficulty filtering out background stimuli, leading to distraction or discomfort in certain environments.
7. Difficulty Learning New Skills
– Challenges in acquiring new motor skills or difficulty automating learned movements.
– Slower progress in learning physical activities compared to peers.
8. Social and Emotional Impacts
– Difficulty in social situations, such as challenges with non-verbal cues, making eye contact, or understanding social nuances.
– Increased risk of anxiety or low self-esteem due to the challenges faced in daily activities.
9. Coping Mechanisms
– Development of compensatory strategies to navigate challenges, such as relying on verbal communication or avoiding activities that highlight coordination difficulties.
10. Academic Challenges
– Difficulty with handwriting, which may impact academic performance.
– Challenges in physical education classes or activities that require coordinated movements.
Social and Cultural Expectations
Societal expectations and gender norms may contribute to the delayed diagnosis in girls. There might be a tendency to overlook or attribute difficulties to other factors, such as shyness or lack of interest in certain activities. Girls may also internalise their struggles and avoid drawing attention to themselves, making it less likely for teachers or parents to recognise the need for intervention.
Girls may develop coping mechanisms to navigate daily activities, masking their difficulties. For example, they might rely on verbal communication or excel in areas that do not require advanced motor skills. These coping mechanisms can make it challenging for educators and healthcare professionals to identify dyspraxia, as girls may appear to be adapting well in certain aspects of their lives.
Educational and Clinical Awareness
There may be a lack of awareness and understanding of how dyspraxia presents in girls among educators, healthcare professionals, and parents. Professionals may be more attuned to recognising stereotypical symptoms seen in boys, leading to earlier referrals and assessments for boys compared to girls.
In conclusion, fostering increased awareness of the varied manifestations of dyspraxia, especially in the context of gender differences, is an essential step toward improving the identification and support systems for individuals, particularly girls, with this neurodiversity. The multifaceted nature of dyspraxia, coupled with the nuanced ways it presents in girls, underscores the importance of a comprehensive and gender-sensitive approach in educational and healthcare settings.
Raising awareness about the nuanced ways dyspraxia manifests in girls is a fundamental step toward building a more inclusive and supportive framework for those affected by the condition. Through ongoing education, collaboration, and advocacy, society can collectively contribute to breaking down barriers, ensuring that individuals with dyspraxia, regardless of gender, receive the recognition, understanding, and assistance they need to thrive in various aspects of their lives.