Dr Inyang Takon
Clumsy, Poorly coordinated and Poor Organisational Skills: What could be wrong with my child??
Motor coordination difficulties are common in children and could result in children struggling to achieve at home and school. Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is the medical terminology for describing the difficulties that exists when a child struggles to carry out tasks that requires motor function. DCD has been known by different names in the past. Dyspraxia is a terminology used to refer to children having similar difficulties seen in DCD. The child’s performance in carrying out motor functions is significantly below what is expected for the child’s actual age (chronological age)
How does DCD present?
The child with DCD may have varying symptoms and not all the symptoms need to be present in the same child before they meet the criteria for a diagnosis. Some of the features are below:
Bumping into people or things
Dropping things frequently
Difficulties in doing some activities such as catching, throwing, kicking, hopping, jumping
Difficulties with some fine motor activities such as cutting, writing, eating neatly
Some children may have delay in some of their milestones such as walking sitting or crawling
Poor organisational skills. Children with DCD may struggle to plan their activities. They do tend to forget things a lot and may lose their valuable items frequently
What is the impact of having DCD?
Daily Living: Children with DCD may struggle with several aspects of day to day living such as getting themselves dressed, having difficulties with completing their dressing such as struggles with doing up zips and buttons, hence the children are heavily reliant on their parents help or sometimes help from teachers or teaching assistants. Children may struggle with cutting up food when eating and they could also be very messy eaters. Some children with DCD may struggle to wipe themselves clean after using the toilet.
Learning: In school: children with DCD may fall behind because of the difficulties they have in putting information down on paper. They struggle with handwriting and are at risk of having lower scores for what they have written. Some children with DCD are very bright but their difficulties with writing prevent them from getting scores that reflects their effort.
Social exclusion: Children with DCD may struggle to participate in some of the leisure activities that require good motor performance. Some of the children then feel left out from these activities and therefore unable to be included in social events that involves these activities.
Co-existing conditions/disorders with DCD
Children with DCD may be more at risk of developing other conditions such as ADHD, ASD, Learning difficulties and emotional and mental health difficulties. It is important that these conditions are excluded during the assessment for DCD.
Who should assess for DCD?
Assessment for DCD requires that the child has a medical assessment to exclude a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy. The child then needs further assessment by the Occupational Therapist and the Physiotherapist depending on the level of motor performance difficulties in the child. The school do provide information towards the assessment. The child does not usually need to have a blood test done however, if there are specific concerns during the medical assessment, the doctor may request for further investigation. Children with DCD found to have learning problems will need input from a psychologist to assess their learning.
Can DCD be cured?
There is no cure for DCD however there are several things that can be put in place to help the child overcome some of the difficulties they have. There are several adaptations that can be made to make school and day to day living better at home and at school. Children with DCD can grow up to be very successful adults due to the support they receive in managing their difficulties at home and at school. Children with DCD may sometimes need special pencils, tables or adaptations to their seating position in class.