What is developmental coordination disorder?
Posted: Feb 14, 2021
Development in children follows a predictable pattern and they normally develop the ability to sit up, stand, walk, and talk at predictable ages with a certain amount of normal variability. Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is one of several conditions that might cause a delay in achieving these milestones. Developmental coordination disorder is a lack of coordination between what the brain intends and the ability to get the body to carry out those intentions. By way of example, the brain might say "I need to tie my shoelaces." For unknown reasons, the brain does not properly send the instructions for shoelace tying to the hands and feet. The brain knows how to tie shoes, but the hands just cannot follow the brain’s instructions. This is what also happens when you try to run, jump, write, button a shirt, and many other tasks. Those with DCD generally have normal intelligence. DCD is sometimes called the "clumsy child syndrome". The signs of DCD may appear soon after birth with problems learning how to suck and swallow milk. In toddlers it may be that they are slow to learn to roll over, sit, crawl and walk.
As the child enters school, the symptoms of the disorder may become more noticeable. These symptoms may include things like an unsteady walk, difficulty going downstairs, dropping objects, running into others, frequent tripping, difficulty tying shoes and putting on clothes. They also may become self-conscious and withdraw from sports and social activities. This could lead to a further deterioration due to the limited physical exercise. Being able to maintain social involvement and good physical condition is essential to help overcome the challenges of DCD. The cause of DCD is not clear and not well understood. It is a result of delayed brain development, but the factors underlying that are yet to be well established. In some cases, the DCD can occur with other disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
DCD is often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms may be confused with those of other conditions and there is some normal variability in achieving the development milestones. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has four criteria that need be met for a diagnosis of developmental coordination disorder: The child shows delays in reaching motor milestones; the condition significantly interferes with activities of daily living and/or academic performance; the symptoms begin early in the child’s life; and there are difficulties with motor skills are not better explained by intellectual disability, visual impairment, or brain disorders.
The management of developmental coordination disorder is with a long-term intervention involving education, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills training to help them adapt to the disorder. The physical education helps develop coordination, balance, and improves that communication between the brain and the body. Individual sports such as swimming or bicycling may offer better opportunities initially than team sports. Daily exercise and sport is essential in order to improve that brain and body interaction and for general wellbeing. Occupational therapy can help the child master daily activities. Those with DCD generally do continue to experience some symptoms as adults, but with proper training and education in motor skills can help them lead a normal and fulfilling life.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.