Autism Vs. Dyspraxia

My daughter was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago and we have never questioned it.  However, the paediatrician thinks that my sister’s son may have dyspraxia.  While researching into the condition I have seen so many characteristics that I see in my daughter.  Could her diagnosis be wrong and she actually has dyspraxia?   


Autism is a lifelong developmental disability.  It is also known as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because the symptoms of autism vary a great deal along a spectrum from mild to severe.   There is currently no cure, however, a wide range of treatments including specialist education and behavioural programmes can help to improve symptoms and increase the quality of life for people with autism.  Although all people with autism will present very differently there are some characteristics in which they all share to some degree:

  • Difficulty with social interaction
  • Difficulty in language and communication
  • Difficulty in imagination/rigidity of thinking.


Dyspraxia is also a developmental disability, however dyspraxia affects movement and co-ordination.  This is due to a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the different parts of the body.  Dyspraxia affects the planning of what we do and how we do it, which can lead to and be associated with:

  • a lack of co-ordination and clumsiness
  • problems of perception, language and thought.

These problems can lead to difficulty concentrating and learning although dyspraxia does not affect intellectual ability.   In older children it can often cause low self-esteem and the avoidance of certain situations e.g. taking part in team games.  This can effect how well they are able to make friends and can mirror the social difficulties children with autism can have.  


As you can see from the above, autism and dyspraxia can present very similarly.  This is made more confusing as the two conditions may also occur along side each other.  As dyspraxia is less well known than autism some children may have be given an autism diagnosis and not assessed for dyspraxia.


It can be so difficult to differentiate between these conditions because both autism and dyspraxia have a wide range of presentations.  They can also coincide and overlap with each other and other developmental conditions such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) Dyslexia (primarily a difficulty with learning to read, write and spell, often accompanied by poor organisational skills) and Dyscalculia (difficulty with mathematical concepts).

So although there are similarities, autism is primarily a social and communication disorder and dyspraxia is primarily a motor skills disorder.  If your child has one of these conditions but you feel they also have other difficulties, you may think about further assessment.  This could highlight whether a child with ASD also has poor concentration/general clumsiness or an actual problem with their motor planning (dyspraxia) or whether a child with dyspraxia has low self-esteem causing difficulty socialising or an inability to interact in social situations (autism).


Many different healthcare professionals are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of both autism and dyspraxia, including;

  • occupational therapist
  • speech and language therapists
  • physiotherapist
  • clinical psychologists
  • educational psychologists

Although getting a diagnosis is integral in order to access support for your child, essentially the label is not what really matters.  What is important is that the child gets the therapy that they need that focuses on the difficulties that most affect their lives.


Integrated Treatment Services specialise in offering high quality speech and language therapy but also have occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists and creative expressive therapists on the team.  This puts Integrated Treatment Services in the perfect position to provide therapy and support for children with conditions such as autism and dyspraxia as a team of specialists will work alongside each other to decide on the best intervention.


We are happy to speak with you over the telephone on: 0845 838 2921 or by email  We will listen to your concerns and talk about the possible options in how we can support you and your child.  If you have found this article helpful and have ideas for topics you would like us to cover in future blogs you can contact us by simply clicking ‘Ask us a Question’.

© Image Credit: dlnny – CC Licensed


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