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Is my child clumsy or could they have Developmental Coordination Disorder?

Does your child have trouble getting themselves dressed, tying their shoes or riding a bike? Do they have frequent falls or struggle to keep up with their peers at swimming lessons or soccer?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of these, your child may have Developmental Coordination Disorder.

Developmental Coordination Disorder, also known as DCD or dyspraxia, is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the ability to plan, execute and co-ordinate movements. Research has shown that 5% of all children have DCD and it is under recognized and often missed.

There are 4 criteria that need to be met for a diagnosis of DCD.

1. Motor skills that are far below expected level for age, despite the opportunity for skill learning.

2. The motor skill difficulties significantly interfere with the child’s activities of daily living – that is, they impact on school and play

3. The onset is in early childhood

4. The motor skill difficulties are not due to another diagnosis such as intellectual delay, visual impairment or other neurological conditions that affect movement

DCD can be a lone diagnosis, however it is more common in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia or Autism Spectrum Disorder. A thorough assessment can help differentiate the motor problems that can be associated with other neurodevelopmental conditions and DCD.

Children with DCD face a number of challenges that can impact their daily life

1. Gross Motor Skill Development, Coordination and Balance

Children with DCD may experience delays in reaching fundamental motor skills such as crawling, walking or sitting or they may reach them towards the later stage of typical development. As skills become more challenging they start to fall further behind their peers. They may have trouble learning to ride a bike, kicking a moving ball or doing a cartwheel.

2. Fine Motor Skill

Children with DCD often face challenges when starting school with fine motor activities such as drawing, cutting, and forming letters. This can impact on their academic performance and independence in activities of daily living.

3. Emotional and Social Impact

Coping with the frustrations of DCD can have emotional repercussions, leading to feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem.

The first step if you think your child might have a problem with their motor skills is to schedule an appointment with a children’s physiotherapist. A diagnosis of DCD is made by a medical doctor after assessment by a physiotherapist to determine if motor skills are significantly behind their peers. It can also be helpful to chat to their teachers and other care givers to see if they feel there could be a problem with their motor learning, balance or co-ordination.

Physiotherapists play a vital role in supporting children with DCD

About 1 in 20 children have DCD

If left unrecognised and untreated, DCD can reduce a child’s participation in physical activity and family life as well as negatively impacting their self-esteem and academic achievement. Physiotherapy that focuses on goal-oriented practice has been shown to be very effective in helping children with DCD. With the right help children with DCD can learn new motor skills, increase their participation in exercise and sport and improve their and their family’s quality of life. If children are given the tools to optimize their learning of motor skills and learn ‘how to learn’ new skills when motor challenges arise throughout life, they know how best to tackle them.

At Just For Kids Physiotherapy we are here to support children at all stages and ages.

For more information on DCD or if you suspect your child may have DCD contact us at Just For Kids Physiotherapy, Warriewood.

Phone: 9979 6609

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