What’s worse dyslexia or dyspraxia?

Dyslexia and dyspraxia are two common learning disabilities that affect a person’s ability to perform certain tasks. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, speaking, and sometimes math. Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), affects motor skills and coordination. Both dyslexia and dyspraxia can range from mild to severe and often co-occur. Determining which one is “worse” depends on the individual’s specific symptoms and how significantly those symptoms impact daily life.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, poor spelling, and decoding abilities. People with dyslexia often struggle with reading comprehension and fluency. Dyslexia is neurological and tends to run in families. The exact causes are unknown but involve differences in brain structure and function.

Common symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Difficulty decoding words and letters
  • Slow, inaccurate, or labored reading
  • Poor spelling ability
  • Difficulty identifying and manipulating sounds in words
  • Trouble learning rhymes
  • Difficulty distinguishing left from right

Dyslexia is not related to intelligence. Many people with dyslexia have average or above-average IQs. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe. Dyslexia persists throughout life but early intervention and proper accommodations allow people with dyslexia to succeed academically and professionally.

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a neurological disorder that affects movement, motor skills, and coordination. Dyspraxia stems from abnormal development of the brain, resulting in messages from the brain not being properly transmitted to the body. This leads to impaired coordination and clumsiness.

Common symptoms of dyspraxia include:

  • Poor balance and posture
  • Difficulty coordinating both sides of the body
  • Trouble judging distances and spatial relationships
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills like writing or tying shoes
  • Problems with gross motor skills like running and jumping
  • Excessive clumsiness or bumping into objects
  • Slow, immature motor skills compared to peers

Like dyslexia, the symptoms of dyspraxia occur on a spectrum from mild to severe. Dyspraxia may cause language delays in childhood. It often co-occurs with ADHD, dyslexia, language disorders, and other conditions. Dyspraxia can significantly impact a child’s participation in sports, playground activities, and even self-care tasks. Proper therapy and accommodations allow those with dyspraxia to improve their coordination over time.

Key Differences Between Dyslexia and Dyspraxia

While dyslexia and dyspraxia share some similarities, there are key differences:

Affected Areas

  • Dyslexia affects language-based brain areas impacting reading, writing, spelling, and speech.
  • Dyspraxia affects the cerebellum and motor cortex which control movement and coordination.

Primary Symptoms

  • Dyslexia primarily causes difficulties with text-based tasks like reading and writing.
  • Dyspraxia mainly affects coordination, balance, and fine/gross motor skills.

Secondary Symptoms

  • Dyslexia can cause struggles with memorization, directionality, sequences, and mathematics.
  • Dyspraxia can cause problems with speech, sensory processing, social skills, and organization.

Age of Onset

  • Dyslexia symptoms typically emerge as a child learns to read and write.
  • Dyspraxia can be detected in infancy and early childhood through delays in motor milestones.

Impact Over Time

  • Dyslexia is lifelong, but strategies for managing it improve with age.
  • Dyspraxia symptoms may lessen over time as motor skills develop, but it is also lifelong.

Gender Distribution

  • Dyslexia occurs more frequently in males.
  • Dyspraxia occurs more often in males during childhood, but evens out in adulthood.

So in summary, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability while dyspraxia affects motor coordination. Both can range from mild to severe and often co-occur.

Common Daily Life Impacts of Dyslexia

While dyslexia impacts each individual differently, depending on severity, there are common areas of daily life that are often affected:

Reading and Writing

Dyslexia makes reading laborious and slow. People with dyslexia read at a lower than expected level and lack fluency. Writing is also very difficult, resulting in frequent spelling errors. Handwriting may be messy and illegible.


Some people with dyslexia struggle to retrieve words, follow conversations, communicate thoughts clearly, pronounce words correctly, or learn new verbal information. Explanation and storytelling can be challenging.


Since dyslexia affects language processing, people often have trouble memorizing written or spoken information like facts, names, lists, and sequences. Short-term auditory memory used for following instructions can be impaired.

Directionality and Organization

Some dyslexics have trouble with left-right orientation. This can cause problems with directionality in reading and writing as well as confusion when following maps or diagrams. Organizing ideas logically can also be difficult.

Time Management

Processing written information like schedules, labels, signs, forms, charts, captions, and manuals takes longer for those with dyslexia. As a result, time management for school, work, appointments, and daily routines is often challenging.

Math and STEM Subjects

Dyslexia can make math difficult since it requires recognizing symbols and memorizing facts. STEM subjects rely heavily on reading comprehension, memorization, diagrams, and sequences. People with dyslexia often struggle in these areas.

Fatigue and Frustration

Reading and writing require so much mental effort and concentration for dyslexics that they result in excessive fatigue and frustration. Self-esteem issues are also common due to constant academic struggle.

Common Daily Life Impacts of Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia affects motor coordination and daily life in many ways:

Physical Activities

Exercising, sports, dance, playground activities, and gym class are challenging for children with dyspraxia. Adults may avoid physical hobbies and appear clumsy when running, cycling, playing sports, or doing aerobics.

Fine Motor Tasks

Everyday self-care tasks like brushing teeth, tying shoes, doing buttons, and using utensils can be difficult. At school or work, handwriting, drawing, typing, cooking, sewing, and crafts require extra effort.

Gross Motor Skills

Poor balance and core stability causes problems with sitting upright, navigating stairs, carrying objects, and avoiding bumping into things. Multistep movements like getting in and out of vehicles are challenging.

Verbal and Social Skills

Speech and language delays are common in childhood. Difficulty interpreting body language, making eye contact, and following social cues can affect relationships.

Organization and Time Management

Messiness, losing track of belongings, and struggling to keep spaces orderly are typical. Planning movements and estimating time needed to complete physical tasks can be problematic.

Fatigue and Frustration

Excessive mental and physical exertion is required for basic coordination. Therapy and extra practice can be draining. Low self-esteem frequently results from constant difficulties and perceived clumsiness.

Additional Conditions

Anxiety, depression, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and autism spectrum disorders often co-occur with dyspraxia, compounding daily life challenges.

Comparing Severity and Prognosis

Determining whether dyslexia or dyspraxia is “worse” depends largely on the severity of symptoms and how significantly they impair daily functioning in each individual case. Here are some factors to consider when comparing severity and prognosis:

Age of Onset

  • Dyslexia becomes apparent as a child learns to read and write. Early diagnosis (5-8 years old) allows for early intervention.
  • Dyspraxia can be detected in infancy but mild cases may go unnoticed until later childhood when coordination demands increase.

Earlier onset provides more time to treat and accommodate for the disability before major academic and social consequences occur in adolescence and adulthood. In this aspect, mild to moderate dyslexia has the advantage.

Impact Over Time

  • Dyslexia is persistent lifelong but coping strategies and accommodations improve with age.
  • Dyspraxia symptoms may lessen over time as motor skills develop but deficits remain through adulthood.

Dyspraxia shows greater potential for improvement in symptoms, while dyslexia remains a constant challenge. But gains made with dyspraxia must be continually reinforced through practice.

Availability of Treatment

  • Well-studied assistive resources, therapies, accommodations, and strategies exist for managing dyslexia.
  • Fewer standardized treatments are available for dyspraxia although physical, occupational, and speech therapy help.

The wider range of accommodations and interventions available for dyslexia give it a better prognosis in this regard. New assistive technologies are also more commonly designed with dyslexia in mind.

Resulting Complications

  • Dyslexia puts one at higher risk for language disorders, anxiety, low self-esteem, and social isolation.
  • Dyspraxia predisposes individuals to anxiety, obesity, low self-esteem, social problems, and depression.

Both dyslexia and dyspraxia can lead to significant secondary psychological and social consequences. These complications worsen quality of life if not properly addressed through counseling and therapy.

Ability to Succeed Academically and Professionally

  • With appropriate accommodations, people with dyslexia can complete their education and be highly successful in many careers.
  • Dyspraxia presents greater challenges for higher education and jobs requiring physical skills. But success is very possible with preparation.

Dyslexia is widely recognized as a disability and reasonable accommodations are provided. Dyspraxia accommodations are less standardized but improving. With hard work, those with either disability can thrive academically and professionally.

Coping Strategies for Dyslexia and Dyspraxia

Despite facing different challenges, some similar coping strategies can benefit both dyslexia and dyspraxia:

Get Diagnosed Early

Assessments for dyslexia and dyspraxia allow access to interventions at the most critical developmental stages. The earlier needs are identified, the better.

Access Accommodations

Classroom accommodations, academic aids, assistive technologies, and disability services provide essential support. Seek these out proactively.

Practice Slowly and Develop Compensatory Strengths

For dyslexia, work on reading and writing skills methodically. For dyspraxia, drill motor skills. Build upon talents in other areas like art, music, or sports.

Break Down Tasks into Small Steps

Make daily routines more manageable. Use checklists, timers, calendars, and alarms as needed. Prioritize important tasks and schedule rest periods.

Control the Learning Environment

See a quiet location free of distractions. Institute organization systems that work for you. Advocate for accommodations that optimize your learning style.

Get Support From Teachers, Family, and Peers

Those who understand your needs can provide encouragement while holding you accountable. Find a community you can be honest with about your struggles.

Emphasize Growth, Not Grades

Focus more on personal progress than test scores and external validation. Celebrate small wins and give yourself credit for hard work. Your self-worth is not defined by grades.

Practice Self-Care and Positive Thinking

Make time for rest, relationships, mental health care, and activities you enjoy. Reframe negative self-talk and be patient with yourself. See setbacks as learning experiences.


Dyslexia and dyspraxia present different sets of challenges that vary greatly in severity between individuals. Determining which disability is objectively “worse” depends on weighing factors like symptom onset and persistence over time, availability of treatment, resulting complications, and long-term prognosis. For a person experiencing either disability, the most important focus is implementing coping strategies and accommodations that allow them to thrive academically, socially, and professionally based on their own definitions of success. With appropriate support and perseverance, those with dyslexia or dyspraxia can overcome obstacles and lead very fulfilling lives.

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