What is Development Coordination Disorder?

My son was diagnosed several years ago with Development Coordination Disorder. What is Development Coordination Disorder you ask?  DCD is a neuro-development disorder that is more common in boys than girls. It occurs in one out of every twenty children.  Isn’t this number surprising?  If it is so prevalent why haven’t more people heard of it? There are a variety of reasons why.  One is age related. Often having these difficulties is prominent in young children due to their age.  Some who are mild outgrow them.  Sometimes people just think they are klutzy or not athletic enough.  Also, DCD has comorbidity with many other disorders such as Autism and ADHD.  In addition, it doesn’t manifest the same in each person. So although someone may have it, it can be misdiagnosed as another disorder.

Some children show DCD with physical signs.   Large motor skills like having trouble with stairs, sports, or skipping can indicate a problem.  My own son “E” would always trip when walking.  Not running or skipping but walking.  I often wondered if he was doing it on purpose but now I know that isn’t true.

Small motor difficulties can come with manipulating scissors, using chopsticks, using writing utensils, and self care. Children can also show problems with learning.  Issues can arise in copying things, note taking and organization. A child may realize that they are making mistakes, but it will take them longer to self correct those mistakes than their peers. My own son has the most difficulty with the fine motor skills. At 13, sometimes it still gives him difficulties.

In the DSM5 some additional problems were listed such a:

1. Poor emotional self regulation.

2. Poor working memory.

3. Cautious or hyper sensitive.

4. Poor fitness.

5. Balance and agility are difficult.

6. Poor ball skills.

7. Getting dressed with difficulty.

8. Cannot sit still or upright.

9. Difficulty eating with a knife and fork.

10. Poor handwriting.

It is important to remember that any difficulty the child is experiencing cannot be explained by intellectual disability.

Children who show signs of the above behaviors and difficulty often evolve to be cautious and fearful. They will engage in a fight or flight response more often than other peers.  They will avoid things they cannot do well, and will have perfectionist tendencies.  They are very intolerant of failure.  Social anxiety, and a fear of being bullied is a real fear with these kids.

How can these things be treated? Both CBT and other forms of psychological therapy can help certain symptoms.  Occupational Therapy can help with others. Be sure to check with your doctor or psychiatrist for a definitive diagnosis.






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