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Developmental coordination disorder
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F82
ICD-9 315.4
MeSH D001072

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD)[1][2][3] also known as Developmental Dyspraxia and Clumsy Child Syndrome[4][5][6][7][8] is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood that can affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body. Up to 50% of dyspraxics have ADHD.[4][9] It may be diagnosed in the absence of other motor or sensory impairments like cerebral palsy,[10] muscular dystrophy,[4] multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease.

Epidemiology[edit | edit source]

Developmental coordination disorder is a lifelong neurological condition that is more common in males than in females, with a ratio of approximately four males to every female. The exact proportion of people with the disorder is unknown since the disorder can be difficult to detect due to a lack of specific laboratory tests, thus making diagnosis of the condition one of elimination of all other possible causes/diseases. Approximately 5–6% of children are affected by this condition.[3][11]

Assessment and diagnosis[edit | edit source]

Assessments for developmental coordination disorder typically require a developmental history,[5] detailing ages at which significant developmental milestones, such as crawling and walking,[4][6] occurred. Motor skills screening includes activities designed to indicate developmental coordination disorder, including balancing, physical sequencing, touch sensitivity, and variations on walking activities. A baseline motor assessment establishes the starting point for developmental intervention programs. Comparing children to normal rates of development may help to establish areas of significant difficulty.

However, research in the British Journal of Special Education has shown that knowledge is severely limited in many who should be trained to recognise and respond to various difficulties, including developmental coordination disorder, dyslexia and deficits in attention, motor control and perception (DAMP).[6] The earlier that difficulties are noted and timely assessments occur, the quicker intervention can begin. A teacher or GP could miss a diagnosis if they are only applying a cursory knowledge.

"Teachers will not be able to recognise or accommodate the child with learning difficulties in class if their knowledge is limited. Similarly GPs will find it difficult to detect and appropriately refer children with learning difficulties."[12]

Developmental profiles[edit | edit source]

Various areas of development can be affected by developmental coordination disorder and these will persist into adulthood,[8] as DCD has no cure. Often various coping strategies are developed, and these can be enhanced through occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, or psychological training.

Speech and language[edit | edit source]

Developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD) is a type of ideational dyspraxia, causing linguistic or phonological impairment. This is the favoured term in the UK; however, it is also sometimes referred to as articulatory dyspraxia, and in the United States the usual term is childhood apraxia of speech (CAS).[13]

Key problems include:

  • Difficulties controlling the speech organs.
  • Difficulties making speech sounds
  • Difficulty sequencing sounds
    • Within a word
    • Forming words into sentences
  • Difficulty controlling breathing, suppressing salivation and phonation when talking or singing with lyrics.
  • Slow language development.
  • Difficulty with feeding.

Fine motor control[edit | edit source]

Difficulties with fine motor co-ordination lead to problems with handwriting,[14][15] which may be due to either ideational or ideo-motor difficulties. Problems associated with this area may include:

  • Learning basic movement patterns.[16]
  • Developing a desired writing speed.
  • The acquisition of graphemes – e.g. the letters of the Latin alphabet, as well as numbers.
  • Establishing the correct pencil grip[17]
  • Hand aching while writing (dysgraphia).

Fine-motor problems can also cause difficulty with a wide variety of other tasks such as using a knife and fork, fastening buttons and shoelaces, cooking, brushing one's teeth, applying cosmetics, styling one's hair, opening jars and packets, locking and unlocking doors, shaving, and doing housework.

Whole body movement, coordination, and body image[edit | edit source]

Issues with gross motor coordination mean that major developmental targets including walking, running, climbing and jumping can be affected. The difficulties vary from child to child and can include the following:

  • Poor timing[14]
  • Poor balance[14][18] (sometimes even falling over in mid-step). Tripping over one's own feet is also common.
  • Difficulty combining movements into a controlled sequence.
  • Difficulty remembering the next movement in a sequence.
  • Problems with spatial awareness,[18][19] or proprioception.
  • Some people with developmental coordination disorder have trouble picking up and holding onto simple objects such as picking pencils and things up, owing to poor muscle tone and/or proprioception.
  • This disorder can cause an individual to be clumsy to the point of knocking things over and bumping into people accidentally.
  • Some people with developmental coordination disorder have difficulty in determining left from right.
  • Cross-laterality, ambidexterity, and a shift in the preferred hand are also common in people with developmental coordination disorder.
  • Problems with chewing foods
  • People with developmental coordination disorder may also have trouble determining the distance between themselves and other objects.[20]

General difficulties[edit | edit source]

In addition to the physical impairments, developmental coordination disorder is associated with problems with memory, especially short-term memory.[21][22][23] This typically results in difficulty remembering instructions, difficulty organizing one's time and remembering deadlines, increased propensity to lose things or problems carrying out tasks which require remembering several steps in sequence (such as cooking). Whilst most of the general population experience these problems to some extent, they have a much more significant impact on the lives of dyspraxic people.[23] However, many dyspraxics have excellent long-term memories, despite poor short-term memory.[23] Many dyspraxics benefit from working in a structured environment, as repeating the same routine minimises difficulty with time-management and allows them to commit procedures to long-term memory.

People with developmental coordination disorder sometimes have difficulty moderating the amount of sensory information that their body is constantly sending them, so as a result these people are prone to panic attacks.[23] Having other autistic traits (which is common with developmental coordination disorder and related conditions)[22] may also contribute to sensory-induced panic attacks.

Developmental coordination disorder can cause problems with perception of distance, and with the speed of moving objects and people[20] This can cause problems moving in crowded places and crossing roads and can make learning to drive a car extremely difficult or impossible.

Many dyspraxics struggle to distinguish left from right, even as adults, and have extremely poor sense of direction generally.

Moderate to extreme difficulty doing physical tasks is experienced by some dyspraxics, and fatigue is common because so much extra energy is expended while trying to execute physical movements correctly. Some (but not all) dyspraxics suffer from hypotonia, which in this case is chronically low muscle tone caused by developmental coordination disorder. People with this condition can have very low muscle strength and endurance (even in comparison with other dyspraxics) and even the simplest physical activities may quickly cause soreness and fatigue, depending on the severity of the hypotonia. Hypotonia may worsen a dyspraxic's already poor balance.[24]

Overlap with other conditions[edit | edit source]

People who have developmental coordination disorder may have other difficulties that are not due to developmental coordination disorder itself but often co-exist with it. This is referred to as comorbidity.[25]

People who have developmental coordination disorder may also have one or more of these co-morbid problems:

However, they are unlikely to have problems in all of these areas. The pattern of difficulty varies widely from person to person, and it is important to understand that a major weakness for one dyspraxic can be a strength or gift for another. For example, while some dyspraxics have difficulty with reading and spelling due to an overlap with dyslexia, or numeracy due to an overlap with dyscalculia, others may have brilliant reading and spelling or mathematical abilities. Some estimates show that up to 50% of dyspraxics have ADHD.[29]

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), concerns having abnormal oversensitivity or undersensitivity to physical stimuli, such as touch, light, sound, and smell.[20] This may manifest itself as an inability to tolerate certain textures such as sandpaper or certain fabrics and including oral toleration of excessively textured food (commonly known as picky eating), or even being touched by another individual (in the case of touch oversensitivity) or may require the consistent use of sunglasses outdoors since sunlight may be intense enough to cause discomfort to a dyspraxic (in the case of light oversensitivity). An aversion to loud music and naturally loud environments (such as clubs and bars) is typical behavior of a dyspraxic individual who suffers from auditory oversensitivity, while only being comfortable in unusually warm or cold environments is typical of a dyspraxic with temperature oversensitivity. Undersensitivity to stimuli may also cause problems. Dyspraxics who are undersensitive to pain may injure themselves without realising.[20] Some dyspraxics may be oversensitive to some stimuli and undersensitive to others.[20] These are commonly associated with autism spectrum conditions.

Specific Language Impairment (SLI), research has found that students with developmental coordination disorder and normal language skills still experience learning difficulties despite relative strengths in language. This means that for students with developmental coordination disorder their working memory abilities determine their learning difficulties. Any strength in language that they have is not able to sufficiently support their learning.[28]

Students with developmental coordination disorder struggle most in visual-spatial memory. When compared to their peers who don’t have motor difficulties, students with developmental coordination disorder are seven times more likely than typically developing students to achieve very poor scores in visual-spatial memory.[30] As a result of this working memory impairment, students with developmental coordination disorder have learning deficits as well.[31]

History[edit | edit source]

Collier first described developmental coordination disorder as 'congenital maladroitness'. A. Jean Ayres referred to developmental coordination disorder as a disorder of sensory integration in 1972,[32] while in 1975 Dr Sasson Gubbay called it the 'clumsy child syndrome'.[5][33] Developmental coordination disorder has also been called minimal brain dysfunction although the two latter names are no longer in use.

Other names include: Developmental Apraxia,[5] Disorder of Attention and Motor Perception (DAMP)[4] Developmental Dyspraxia,[5] Motor Learning Difficulties,[5] Perceptuo-motor dysfunction,[5] Sensorimotor dysfunction.[5]

The World Health Organisation currently lists developmental coordination disorder as Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function.[4]

Notable dyspraxics[edit | edit source]

Living people who have publicly stated they have been diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder include actor Daniel Radcliffe,[34] photographer David Bailey, Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine, and actress Hannah McDonnell.[35]

Writers suspected to have had the condition include Emily Brontë, Charlotte Brontë, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, G.K. Chesterton, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and George Orwell.

Helen Burns, a character from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, is alleged to have been based on the author's dyspraxic elder sister Maria Brontë.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. (1995). An International Consensus on Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy 62 (1): 3–6.
  2. Consensus Statements. CanChild.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Blank R, Smits-Engelsman B, Polatajko H, Wilson P (January 2012). European Academy for Childhood Disability (EACD): recommendations on the definition, diagnosis and intervention of developmental coordination disorder (long version). Dev Med Child Neurol 54 (1): 54–93.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 (2003). Toward an understanding of developmental coordination disorder: terminological and diagnostic issues. Neural Plast 10 (1–2): 1–13.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Gibbs J, Appleton J, Appleton R (June 2007). Dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder? Unravelling the enigma. Arch. Dis. Child. 92 (6): 534–9.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Kirby A, Sugden DA (April 2007). Children with developmental coordination disorders. J R Soc Med 100 (4): 182–6.
  7. Magalhães LC, Missiuna C, Wong S (November 2006). Terminology used in research reports of developmental coordination disorder. Dev Med Child Neurol 48 (11): 937–41.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kirby A, Edwards L, Sugden D, Rosenblum S (2010). The development and standardization of the Adult Developmental Co-ordination Disorders/Dyspraxia Checklist (ADC). Res Dev Disabil 31 (1): 131–9.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Fliers EA, Franke B, Buitelaar JK (2011). [Motor problems in children with ADHD receive too little attention in clinical practice]. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd 155 (50): A3559.
  10. Pearsall-Jones JG, Piek JP, Levy F (October 2010). Developmental Coordination Disorder and cerebral palsy: categories or a continuum?. Hum Mov Sci 29 (5): 787–98.
  11. Gaines, Robin, Cheryl Missiuna , Mary Egan, Jennifer McLean (2008-01-22). Educational outreach and collaborative care enhances physician's perceived knowledge about Developmental Coordination Disorder. BMC Health Services Research 8: 21.
  12. (2005). Do teachers know more about specific learning difficulties than general practitioners?. British Journal of Special Education 32 (3): 122–126.
  13. Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia - Pam Williams of Nuffield Hearing and Speech Centre.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Missiuna C, Gaines R, Soucie H, McLean J (October 2006). Parental questions about developmental coordination disorder: A synopsis of current evidence. Paediatr Child Health 11 (8): 507–12.
  15. Rosenblum S (2013). Handwriting measures as reflectors of executive functions among adults with Developmental Coordination Disorders (DCD). Front Psychol 4: 357.
  16. Lacquaniti F (August 1989). Central representations of human limb movement as revealed by studies of drawing and handwriting. Trends Neurosci. 12 (8): 287–91.
  17. Medical News Today - What is Dyspraxia? How is Dyspraxia treated?.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Geuze RH (2005). Postural control in children with developmental coordination disorder. Neural Plast. 12 (2-3): 183–96; discussion 263–72.
  19. Wilson PH, McKenzie BE (September 1998). Information processing deficits associated with developmental coordination disorder: a meta-analysis of research findings. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 39 (6): 829–40.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 (2005) "2 The Hidden People at Home" Caged in chaos : a dyspraxic guide to breaking free, London ; Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. URL accessed 2011-07-20.
  21. Alloway TP, Rajendran G, Archibald LM (2009). Working memory in children with developmental disorders. J Learn Disabil 42 (4): 372–82.
  22. 22.0 22.1 (2005) "1 A Recipe for Chaos" Caged in chaos : a dyspraxic guide to breaking free, London ; Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. URL accessed 2011-07-20.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 (2005) "3 A Survival Guide to School" Caged in chaos : a dyspraxic guide to breaking free, London ; Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. URL accessed 2011-07-20.
  24. NINDS, information on hypotonia
  25. Amanda Kirby speaking on the co-occurrence of learning difficulties. dysTalk. URL accessed on 2009-04-22.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Gillberg C, Kadesjö B (2003). Why bother about clumsiness? The implications of having developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Neural Plast. 10 (1-2): 59–68.
  27. Dziuk MA, Gidley Larson JC, Apostu A, Mahone EM, Denckla MB, Mostofsky SH (October 2007). Dyspraxia in autism: association with motor, social, and communicative deficits. Dev Med Child Neurol 49 (10): 734–9.
  28. 28.0 28.1 (2008). Working Memory and Learning in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder and Specific Language Impairment. Journal of Learning Disabilities 41 (3): 251–62.
  29. Barkley, Russell A. (1990). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a handbook for diagnosis and treatment, New York: Guilford Press.
  30. Alloway, TP (2007). Working Memory, Reading and Mathematical Skills in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 96 (1): 20–36.
  31. (2007). A Comparison of Working Memory Profiles and Learning in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder and Moderate Learning Difficulties. Applied Cognitive Psychology 21 (4): 473–487.
  32. Ayres AJ (1972). Types of sensory integrative dysfunction among disabled learners. Am J Occup Ther 26 (1): 13–8.
  33. Gubbay SS (October 1978). The management of developmental apraxia. Dev Med Child Neurol 20 (5): 643–6.
  34. includeonly>Irvine, Chris. "Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe has dyspraxia", The Daily Telegraph, 2008-08-17. Retrieved on 2010-05-16.
  35. includeonly>Smith, Andrea. "Hannah: You're not wrong and you're not broken", Irish Independent, 2009-03-15. Retrieved on 2011-11-03.

External links[edit | edit source]

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