Vancouver, British Columbia
What is DCD?
DCD is a medical condition in which there is marked impairment in the development of motor coordination, and the impairment significantly interferes with academic achievement or activities of daily living*.
This disorder is actually a common condition that is present in about 5% of children who are school-aged, yet very few physicians know about or give this diagnosis.
In the past, a child with DCD was often considered “clumsy” or “physically awkward” and received little attention mostly since the common belief was these difficulties will diminish with time.
Children with DCD usually have average or above-average intellectual abilities, another unfortunate contributor to the “wait and see” approach.
Another important fact about DCD is that it may exist either in isolation or co-occur with other conditions such as language-based or non-verbal learning disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Signs of DCD
Children with DCD are often referred for an occupational therapy (OT) assessment because they are experiencing difficulties with handwriting and other fine motor activities at school. In most cases the OT discovers that these challenges are just “the tip of the iceberg” and the child is experiencing difficulties across other daily activities, for example:
Why do these children have handwriting difficulties?
Children who struggle with learning to print or show continued difficulty and frustration with printing and handwriting are expected to experience challenges in the following areas:
These children often experience difficulty with any task that requires a coordinated motor action that depends upon continual feedback from their eyes or hands (e.g., using scissors, playing hockey, playing baseball). It's important that these children will probably not have as much difficulty with tasks that have a basic motor pattern that, once learned, doesn't keep changing (e.g., swimming, skating, running).
Is there reason for concern?
Unfortunately, the answer is two-sided.
DCD shouldn't be taken lightly. Addressing DCD as early as possible can be instrumental in preventing the development of secondary problems. There is strong empirical evidence that the motor problems of children with DCD persist at least into adolescence and lead to the development of secondary physical health, mental health and educational issues including physical fitness, poor social competence, academic problems, behavioural problems, and low self-esteem.
The good news is that treatment is available and has been shown to improve the performance of children with DCD and help them achieve their potential. Prevention of the aforementioned challenges is possible if parents, teachers, health professionals and the children themselves are educated about the disorder and learn strategies to compensate for the motor difficulties.
So... what's next?
If you suspect that your child has DCD, it is recommended that they will be evaluated by a Developmental Paediatrician and that neurological conditions or other medical conditions are ruled out before reaching a DCD diagnosis.
Once you have a diagnosis please contact us to arrange intervention.
At KidSkills we utilize the CO-OP approach for working with children with DCD. You can reach more about this method here.
The information above was adapted from material provided by the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research. You can find more information on DCD at the CanChild web site.
* Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) IV, 2000
** Fox, M., & Lent, B. (1996). Clumsy children: Primer on developmental coordination disorder. Canadian Family Physician, 42, 1965-1971.
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Vancouver BC, V5V 1R7
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