Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) also known as dyspraxia, is a neurodevelopmental disorder which can impact a child’s ability to learn motor skills and execute smooth coordinated motor movements impacting fine and gross motor coordination, balance and postural control as well as sensorimotor coordination. The challenges with this disorder can significantly impact daily life, school performance and participation in leisure activities. Persistence of these challenges can continue into late childhood and teen years affecting physical health, mental health and quality of life. Other terminologies that have been used over the years to describe DCD are clumsy child syndrome, developmental apraxia, perceptual motor dysfunction, motor learning difficulty, sensory integration disorder, and disorder of motor and perception. One out of twenty children present with this disorder and it can significantly impact a child’s daily life. This disorder has been identified to co-exist with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities. However it can also stand alone as a diagnosis.
What are the signs or DCD?
Delays in achieving motor milestones such as sitting, crawling or walking.
Persistent clumsiness such as bumping into furniture or dropping objects.
Difficulty catching a ball or participating in sports.
Difficulty participating in fine motor tasks such as buttoning, using utensils or manipulating objects.
Poor or slow handwriting
If you suspect your child is exhibiting signs of Developmental Coordination Disorder, the first step is to contact your child’s pediatrician, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, a pediatric neuropyschologist or a child psychiatrist. Your physician will complete a full assessment of your child and discuss your concerns. There are specific diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM V that are necessary to receive the diagnosis of DCD.
My child has a diagnosis of DCD. What do I do next?
Your physician can give you a prescription to receive outpatient, in home or telehealth occupational therapy services. Occupational therapy can evaluate and treat the many skills and life areas impacted by this disorder. School occupational therapy is offered for students who have an IEP with a specific disability or students who have a medical 504 plan. Contact your child’s school administrator for more information to determine if your child qualifies for in school occupational therapy services.
Here are some strategies for helping your child at home:
- Provide demonstration of new tasks and break down the motor skill for the task one step at a time. The child may need repetition and practice to be successful.
- Be patient and positive when your child is learning a new skill. Many children who have DCD are aware that motor tasks are hard for them. They often will avoid an activity that is hard or give up before they are successful.
- Improve body awareness through yoga, martial arts, swimming and non-competitive sports.
Tom Lissauer MB, BChir, FRCPCH, in illustrated Textbook of Paediatrics, 2022
Jill G. Zwicker, in Diagnosis, Management and modeling of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 2021
Zwicker JG, Missiuna C, Harris SR, Boyd LA. Developmental coordination disorder: a review and update, Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2012
Liberman L, Ratzon N, Bart O. The profile of performance skills and emotional factors in the context of participation among young children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Res Dev Diabil. 2013