Dyspraxia and Autism: Shared Symptoms

In this article, we will explore the relationship between dyspraxia and autism, their common features, and how they can be diagnosed and managed.

Alan Hollander
September 24, 2023

Dyspraxia and Autism: Shared Symptoms

In this article, we will explore the relationship between dyspraxia and autism, their common features, and how they can be diagnosed and managed.

Dyspraxia and Autism

Dyspraxia and autism are two neurodevelopmental disorders that often coexist and share many symptoms.

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a common neurological condition that affects movement and coordination. People with dyspraxia often struggle with activities that require fine motor skills, such as writing, tying shoelaces, or using utensils.

Dyspraxia can also cause difficulties with gross motor skills, such as running, jumping, or balancing. Additionally, people with dyspraxia may have problems with organization, planning, and time management.

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it manifests differently in each individual.

Some common features of autism include:

  • Difficulty with social communication and interaction
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Difficulty with changes in routine or environment

Dyspraxia and Autism: Shared Features

Dyspraxia and autism share many common features, which can make diagnosis challenging. Some of these shared features include:

Motor difficulties

Both dyspraxia and autism can cause problems with movement and coordination, although dyspraxia is more specifically related to motor skills.

Sensory sensitivities

People with dyspraxia and autism may both experience sensory sensitivities to light, sound, touch, or taste.

Communication difficulties

While communication difficulties are a hallmark of autism, people with dyspraxia may also struggle with expressive language and social communication.

Diagnosing Dyspraxia and Autism

Diagnosing dyspraxia and autism requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional. A diagnosis of dyspraxia is typically made by a pediatrician or neurologist, who may use standardized tests to assess motor skills, coordination, and cognitive function.

Diagnosing autism is more complex, as it involves assessing communication, social interaction, and behavior. Autism is usually diagnosed by a team of healthcare professionals, including a psychologist, speech therapist, and occupational therapist.

Managing Dyspraxia and Autism

While there is no cure for dyspraxia or autism, both conditions can be managed with appropriate interventions and support. Some common strategies for managing dyspraxia and autism include:

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy can help improve motor skills, coordination, and organization.

Speech therapy

Speech therapy can help improve communication skills in people with dyspraxia and autism.

Sensory integration therapy

Sensory integration therapy can help people with dyspraxia and autism manage sensory sensitivities.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy can help people with autism learn social skills and manage problematic behaviors.

Early Signs of Dyspraxia and Autism in Children

Early recognition of dyspraxia and autism is crucial for providing timely interventions and support. Here are some early signs of dyspraxia and autism in children:

Early Signs of Dyspraxia

  • Delays in reaching developmental milestones, such as crawling, walking, or speaking
  • Difficulty with activities that require fine motor skills, such as holding a pencil or buttoning clothes
  • Clumsiness or frequent falls
  • Difficulty with dressing or feeding oneself
  • Avoidance of physical activities or games that involve coordination

Early Signs of Autism

  • Lack of response to their name being called
  • Delayed language development or lack of speech
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as flapping hands or spinning objects
  • Difficulty in maintaining eye contact
  • Lack of interest in playing with others

If you notice any of these signs in your child, it is important to have them evaluated by a healthcare professional who can provide a diagnosis and recommend appropriate interventions.

How Symptoms of Dyspraxia and Autism Can Change Over Time?

The symptoms of dyspraxia and autism can change over time, which can further complicate diagnosis and management. Some individuals may experience improvements in certain areas while continuing to struggle with others.

For example, a child with dyspraxia may show improvement in their fine motor skills but continue to struggle with gross motor skills or organization.

Similarly, the symptoms of autism may also change over time. Children who are diagnosed with autism at a young age may show significant improvements in communication and social interaction skills as they receive early interventions and support.

However, some individuals with autism may continue to experience challenges with sensory sensitivities or repetitive behaviors throughout their lives.

It is important for healthcare professionals and caregivers to monitor changes in symptoms over time so that interventions can be adjusted accordingly. Adaptive strategies that worked well for an individual at one point in their life may no longer be effective as symptoms change.

By staying attuned to these changes, healthcare professionals can provide the best possible care for individuals with dyspraxia and autism throughout their lifespan.

The Impact of Dyspraxia and Autism on Academic Achievement

Dyspraxia and autism can have a significant impact on academic achievement, particularly in areas that require fine motor skills and social communication. Children with dyspraxia may struggle with handwriting, taking notes, or completing assignments that require precise movements.

They may also have difficulty with time management and organization, which can make it challenging to keep up with coursework.

Similarly, children with autism may struggle with tasks that involve social communication or understanding nonverbal cues from teachers or peers. They may also become overwhelmed by sensory stimuli in the classroom, such as fluorescent lights or background noise.

Despite these challenges, there are many strategies that can help children with dyspraxia and autism succeed academically. For example, accommodations such as extra time on tests, note-taking assistance, or alternative assignments can help level the playing field for students who struggle with fine motor skills or organization.

Additionally, assistive technology such as speech recognition software or digital organizers can be helpful tools for students who have difficulty with writing or time management. Finally, working closely with teachers and support staff to develop individualized education plans (IEPs) can ensure that students receive the accommodations and support they need to reach their full potential in the classroom.

By recognizing the impact of dyspraxia and autism on academic achievement and providing appropriate interventions and support, we can help ensure that all children have access to a quality education.

Coping Mechanisms for Individuals with Dyspraxia and Autism in Social Situations

Social situations can be challenging for individuals with dyspraxia and autism, as they may struggle with communication, sensory sensitivities, and social interaction. However, there are many coping mechanisms that can help individuals with these conditions navigate social situations more effectively.

Prepare in Advance

One helpful coping mechanism is to prepare in advance for social situations. This can involve practicing social skills, such as making eye contact or initiating conversation, in a safe and familiar environment.

It can also involve anticipating potential challenges or triggers, such as loud noises or bright lights, and developing strategies for managing them.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids can be helpful tools for individuals with dyspraxia and autism to communicate their needs and preferences in social situations. For example, a picture schedule or visual timetable can help individuals understand the sequence of events at a social gathering and reduce anxiety.

Similarly, a communication book or app can provide a means of expressing thoughts or feelings when verbal communication is difficult.

Seek Support from Others

Seeking support from others can also be an effective coping mechanism in social situations. This may involve identifying a trusted friend or family member who can act as an advocate or provide emotional support during challenging situations.

It may also involve seeking out support groups or community organizations that cater to individuals with dyspraxia and autism.

Take Breaks When Needed

Finally, it is important for individuals with dyspraxia and autism to take breaks when needed during social situations. This may involve finding a quiet space to relax and decompress if feeling overwhelmed by sensory stimuli or social interactions.

It may also involve setting boundaries around the length of time spent in certain types of social situations or activities.

By using these coping mechanisms and others tailored to their individual needs, individuals with dyspraxia and autism can successfully navigate social situations while minimizing stress and anxiety.

Comorbidity of Autism and Dyspraxia

It is possible for someone to have both autism and dyspraxia. In fact, studies have shown that there is a high degree of comorbidity between these two conditions.

According to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, up to 50% of people with autism also have dyspraxia. One reason for this overlap is that both autism and dyspraxia involve difficulties with coordination and motor skills.

People with dyspraxia may struggle with motor planning and execution, while people with autism may have difficulty with fine or gross motor skills. Additionally, both conditions can involve sensory sensitivities and difficulties with social communication.

Each person's experience of autism and dyspraxia may be unique. Some individuals with autism and dyspraxia may experience more severe symptoms than others.

However, with appropriate interventions and support, people with co-occurring autism and dyspraxia can lead fulfilling lives and achieve their full potential. This may include occupational therapy, speech therapy, or behavioral therapy, as well as accommodations in educational or work settings.

Strategies for Supporting Children with Dyspraxia and Autism at Home

Parents can play a critical role in supporting their children with dyspraxia and autism. Here are some strategies that parents can use to help their children thrive at home:

Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment

Children with dyspraxia and autism may be highly sensitive to sensory stimuli, such as bright lights, loud noises, or certain textures. Parents can create a sensory-friendly environment at home by minimizing these stimuli and providing calming sensory experiences.

This may include using dimmer lights, playing soft music, or providing a weighted blanket or fidget toy.

Establish Routines and Predictability

Establishing routines and predictability can help children with dyspraxia and autism feel more secure and confident. Parents can create visual schedules or checklists to help their child understand what is expected of them each day.

They can also provide warnings before transitions between activities to minimize anxiety.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective strategy for encouraging positive behavior in children with dyspraxia and autism. Parents can use praise, rewards, or tokens to reinforce desired behaviors, such as completing chores or following instructions.

Provide Opportunities for Physical Activity

Physical activity is important for promoting coordination and motor skills in children with dyspraxia and autism. Parents can provide opportunities for physical activity at home by setting up an obstacle course, playing catch, or going on a nature walk.

Encourage Communication

Encouraging communication is crucial for helping children with dyspraxia and autism develop social communication skills. Parents can model good communication habits by actively listening to their child's needs and responding appropriately.

They can also provide opportunities for their child to practice communication skills through play activities or structured conversations.

By implementing these strategies at home, parents can support their child's development while fostering a safe and supportive environment.

The Importance of Early Intervention for Autism and Dyspraxia: Benefits and Treatment Options

Early intervention is essential for both autism and dyspraxia, as it can improve outcomes and quality of life for individuals with these conditions. Early intervention refers to the provision of services and support as soon as possible after a diagnosis or suspected diagnosis.

For autism, early intervention has been shown to improve communication, social interaction, and behavior. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who receive early intervention services before the age of 3 have better outcomes than those who start later.

Early intervention for autism may include therapies such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational therapy, or social skills training. Similarly, early intervention for dyspraxia can improve motor skills, coordination, and organization.

Occupational therapy is often recommended as a first-line treatment for dyspraxia, as it can help individuals develop strategies to manage daily activities and improve motor planning and execution. Other interventions for dyspraxia may include speech therapy, physical therapy, or sensory integration therapy.

Early intervention should be tailored to each individual's needs and strengths. A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional can help determine the most appropriate interventions and support for each person.

Additionally, family support and education are crucial components of early intervention for both autism and dyspraxia. In conclusion, early intervention is crucial for individuals with autism and dyspraxia.

With appropriate interventions and support, children and adults with these conditions can lead fulfilling lives and achieve their full potential. It's important for parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of autism and dyspraxia so that they can seek early intervention services when needed


Is there a cure for dyspraxia or autism?

There is no known cure for dyspraxia or autism. However, early intervention and appropriate support can help individuals with these conditions manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

Can dyspraxia or autism be diagnosed in adulthood?

Yes, it is possible to receive a diagnosis of dyspraxia or autism in adulthood. However, diagnosis can be more challenging as symptoms may be less obvious or have been attributed to other causes over time.

A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

Are dyspraxia and autism genetic?

There is evidence to suggest that both dyspraxia and autism may have a genetic component. However, the exact causes of these conditions are still not fully understood.

Can children with dyspraxia or autism go to college?

Yes, children with dyspraxia and/or autism can attend college with appropriate support and accommodations. Many colleges offer disability services that can provide accommodations such as extended test-taking time, note-taking assistance, or alternative assignments.

What careers are suitable for individuals with dyspraxia or autism?

Individuals with dyspraxia or autism can pursue a wide range of careers based on their strengths and interests. Some careers that may be well-suited to individuals with these conditions include computer programming, engineering, graphic design, writing, or research.

It's important to find a career that aligns with one's strengths and interests while also providing the necessary support and accommodations.


Dyspraxia and autism are two complex neurodevelopmental disorders that share many common features. While they are distinct conditions, they often coexist and can present diagnostic challenges.

However, with appropriate interventions and support, people with dyspraxia and autism can lead fulfilling lives and achieve their full potential.