Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

What is a Developmental Coordination Disorder?

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a motor skills disorder that affects five to six percent of all school-aged children. DCD occurs when a delay in the development of motor skills, or difficulty coordinating movements, results in a child being unable to perform common, everyday tasks. By definition, children with DCD do not have an identifiable medical or neurological condition that explains their coordination problems.

Frequently described as "clumsy" or "awkward" by their parents and teachers, children with DCD have difficulty mastering simple motor activities e.g. tying shoes, going down stairs, and are unable to perform age-appropriate academic and self-care tasks. Some children may experience difficulties in a variety of areas while others may have problems with only specific activities. Children with DCD usually have normal or above average intellectual abilities. However, their motor coordination difficulties may impact their academic progress, social integration and emotional development.

While it was once thought that children with DCD would simply outgrow their motor difficulties,  research tells us that DCD persists throughout adolescence into adulthood. Children with DCD can and do learn to perform certain motor tasks well. However, they have difficulty when faced with new, age-appropriate tasks and are at risk for secondary difficulties that result from their motor challenges. Although there is


Currently there no cure for DCD, early intervention and treatment may help to reduce the emotional, physical and social consequences that are often associated with this disorder.

The 4 DSM IV diagnostic criteria for DCD are as follows:

  1. Performance in daily activities that require motor coordination is substantially below given the person's chronological age and measured intelligence. This change may manifest as marked delays in achieving motor milestones (e.g. walking, crawling, and sitting) and as dropping things, clumsiness, poor performance in sports or poor handwriting.
  2. The disturbance in criterion 1 substantially interferes with academic achievement and/or activities of daily living.
  3. The disturbance is not due to a general medical condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, hemiplegia, muscular dystrophy) and it does not meet criteria for a pervasive developmental disorder.
  4. If ‘mental retardation’ is present the motor difficulties are in excess of those usually associated with it.

How an Occupational Therapist may help…..

Occupational Therapy (OT) can help a child/young person with a DCD participate in the activities within their daily lives that they need to do and/or want to do. Working closely with families and schools, an OT may provide any of the following interventions depending on the individual’s needs and goals:

  • Motor skills assessments, including balance, ball skills and fine motor skills ensuring they have the underlying strength and stability required to perform these tasks.
  • Advice and strategies to support their development and/or participation in self-care tasks. This may include the provision of equipment and /or advice regarding ways of teaching and learning the skills.
  • Assessment and advice for handwriting with programmes, to help develop underlying skills as well as programmes to help letter formation and the recommendation of equipment.
  • Sensory assessment, advice and equipment to help improve their ability to process sensory information for improved participation in activities.
  • Advice and strategies to help motor planning and organsation at home and within the classroom.
  • Advice and strategies on how to participate or learn play and leisure activities such as swimming and riding a bike.

Relevant Occupational Therapy Home Programmes available such as

  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Bilateral skills
  • Self care skills
  • Motor planning
  • Handwriting
  • Sensory skills
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Sarm’s Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation Centre

Centre is Located at Nadharia St,
Kijitonyama, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Tel 1.:  (+255) 0656 050 300
Tel 2.:  (+255) 0688 006 018
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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