How is life experienced by teenagers with dyspraxia? An interpretative phenomenological analysis

  • Sarah Payne

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Dyspraxia, a form of developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is one of the most common disorders of childhood (Wann 2007). However, while there is increasing evidence that in many cases childhood motor difficulties persist into adulthood (Kirby et al 2013) little is known about the impact of the condition during adolescence. Moreover, existing research reflects the interests and concerns of professionals and parents rather than the perspectives of teenagers themselves.

The study was guided by the philosophical principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). A Research Reference Group of older teenagers and young adults with dyspraxia was involved in the study design and analysis of findings. Sixteen interviews were carried out with teenagers aged 13-15 years over a two year period. Participants’ accounts were subjected to a systematic process of ideographic, inductive and interpretative analysis.

Five themes that represent the lived experience of dyspraxia during adolescence emerged. These were: “Doing everything the hard way”; “I didn’t want to be seen as someone different”; “I’m an intelligent person but I can’t even write. It’s making me fill up”; right help, right time; and making sense of the diagnosis. In accordance with the philosophical principles of IPA the findings prioritise the voice of the participants, and my influence as the researcher and insights offered by the Reference Group on the interpretation of findings are acknowledged. Evidence built through the process of interpretative analysis is drawn together into a conceptual framework. This is presented as a novel means of demonstrating the complex interaction of personal and environmental factors that influence the lived experience of DCD/dyspraxia during adolescence and their impact on teenagers’ sense of identity, agency, ambition and emotional resilience. The thesis concludes by summarising the new understandings about DCD/dyspraxia that the study brought forth, identifying how these might help parents, professionals, support organisations including the Dyspraxia Foundation and researchers to improve outcomes for teenagers living with DCD/dyspraxia in the future.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorGillian Ward (Supervisor) & Katherine Wimpenny (Supervisor)


  • teenagers
  • dyspraxia

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