Is clumsiness a health problem?
If you’ve struggled with feeling uncoordinated and clumsy your whole life, it might be due to a neurological disorder that you were born with.
Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder or the outdated term “clumsy child syndrome,” is a chronic motor disorder that affects the way your brain sends messages to your body. “The condition impacts your fine and gross motor skills, motor planning and coordination,” says Dr. Ryan R. Coates, a pediatric neurologist at Advocate Medical Group in Oak Lawn, Ill.
It may also impact cognitive skills like memory, judgement and processing, leading to feeling like you are out of sync and unorganized. Dyspraxia does not impact your intelligence.
“The condition is different for everyone,” adds Dr. Coates. “While some struggle with balance and hand-eye coordination, they may excel in other areas like creativity.” Dyspraxia symptoms may change over time as well.
Many consider athletic talent – or the lack of – to run in the family, and this might also be true for dyspraxia. While there is no known cause for the disorder, it could be due to genetics. Many who have the disorder also have other common neurodevelopmental disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Affecting about 6 percent of school-aged children, dyspraxia makes certain tasks such as getting dressed, riding a bike and participating in sports difficult. Feeling clumsy and uncoordinated at a young age can lead to a lifelong dislike of sports and activities, and feelings of low self-esteem.
“Children with dyspraxia may become frustrated easily when they have difficulty with certain tasks and activities,” says Dr. Coates. “They can miss out on the physical benefits and positive life skills sports provide.”
This reluctance may carry on into adulthood, leading to other health complications. Dr. Coates notes that adults and children with dyspraxia are more likely to develop obesity due to their avoidance of physical activity.
While it’s a lifelong condition with no cure, it can be managed with therapies. “A dyspraxia diagnosis and subsequent therapies can help boost confidence and self-esteem,” adds Dr. Coates.
Children who are diagnosed early and have mild symptoms may eventually overcome difficulties with therapy. Parents can also help improve symptoms by emphasizing a healthy lifestyle.
The same suggestion stands for adults – regular exercise, ample sleep and avoiding stress can improve focus and performance. Choosing exercise that increases your balance and core strength can also be beneficial. Research found that ballet can help symptoms of clumsiness.
Other common forms of therapy for dyspraxia include:
- Occupational therapy to improve organizational and motor skills.
- Physical therapy to improve movement.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy to improve self-esteem and coping skills.
About the Author
Macaire Douglas, health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist and writer with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and previously worked as a content director for a lifestyle publication. In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening and keeping up on pop culture.