Developmental coordination disorder is a common type of disorder that occurs during childhood and eventually leads to the improper development of coordination, thus causing the patient to become clumsy1. This disorder can develop during childhood and last throughout a patient’s life.
6% of all children have been observed to have some form of disorder leading to developmental coordination problems. Some of the signs or symptoms that these children might show include:
- Having trouble in holding objecting with a steady grip
- Tripping over their own feet, without the presence of an obstacle.
- Running into other children without being able to stop themselves
- Having an unsteady style of walking
It has been seen that developmental coordination disorder may either exist in a patient independently, or in combination with various other disorders of learning which may include disorders associated with communication or with written expression.
Characteristics of Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder
There is wide range of dysfunctions portrayed by children having development coordination disorders. All these dysfunctions can be classified into three main groups, namely gross motor, fine motor and psychosocial dysfunctions2.
- Gross motor: There are various neurological soft signs portrayed by patients of development coordination disorders. These include hyptonia, immature balance reactions and the act of retaining some primitive reflexes. These signs may interfere with the development of the gross motor system. Another common finding among these children is that they have a strange and distinct manner of running, they tend to fall frequently, they may be seen handling items and objects clumsily, dropping them often, they may face difficulty in imitating various positions of the body and they may also find it difficult to follow 2 to 3 steps motor commands. Due to all these reasons, these children are often weak at sporting activities and events. Because of the lack of participation in sports, their muscle force and tone automatically decreases over time.
- Fine Motor: One of the very first identifiable signs of developmental coordination disorder associated with a fine motor defect is the difficulty of a patient in handwriting and drawing. This is also the most frequently mentioned of all problems experienced by children with development coordination disorders. Patients with DCD have difficulty in executing as well as planning different fine motor skills which include dressing, or gripping objects.
- Psychosocial: The various signs portrayed by children suffering from developmental coordination disorders are not only restricted to those of fine and gross motor systems. There are a number of psychosocial problems faced by these children as well. There are different reading and learning disabilities associated with the disorder that risk lowering the intelligence level of the child at school. These children might be proactive but their means of communication or gaining recognition may not be entirely desirable socially, which usually makes them the class clown. Adults suffering from developmental coordination disorders generally have a small number of friends and also frequently experience feelings of low confidence and self esteem. They also tend to be rather anxious at all times.
Previously, all parents whose children suffered from developmental coordination disorders were reassured that the problem will eventually diminish with age and the clumsiness was something not to worry about. Recent researches and studies however, have proved otherwise. It has been seen that children with DCD may never outgrow the clumsiness and other signs associated with the disorder. Without any special medical attention and intervention, there are chances that the child will not improve even after growing up.
Exams and Tests
All other forms of learning disabilities as well as physical causes that may lead to these disabilities should essentially be ruled out prior to the preparation of a diagnosis and confirmation of the disorder in a child.
Physical education a treatment called “perceptual motor training: are the most ideal ways to treat developmental coordination disorder. Using a computer, rather than writing down notes might help children who may have trouble with writing.
Children with this condition are 3 times more likely to be over weight than most other children of similar age. Encouraging any sort of physical activity is a very important way to help prevent obesity.
Outlook and Prognosis:
The severity of the disorder will determine how well a child ill do. The disorder does not tend to worsen over time but it does usually continue into adulthood. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is including Developmental Coordination Disorder in its 5th Proposed Revision.
Problems with learning
A Low self-esteem due to poor sporting ability and being targeted by other chidlren
Repeated falls and injuries
Weight gain due to lack of exercise
Families who have children that are affected by developmental coordination disorder should try to recognize the problem early and have it treated. Early treatment most likely leads to future success.
2 “Developmental Disabilities”: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th edition. Butterworth-Heinemann; Ross G, Fenichel GM, Bradley WG, Nass R, Daroff RB, Jankovic J.
3 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Proposed Fifth Revision by the American Psychiatry Association.