Signs of developmental coordination disorder (DCD) at different ages

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a condition that affects how kids move. It can also have a big impact on learning. DCD, which is sometimes referred to as dyspraxia, makes it hard for kids to do schoolwork and keep up with lessons. It can also make it hard to do everyday tasks.

Kids with DCD have trouble with motor skills, like fine and gross motor skills. They can also struggle with coordination and motor planning (the ability to plan and carry out movements in the right order). Here are some of the symptoms of DCD at different ages.

Signs of DCD in preschool

  • Has trouble holding and using utensils
  • Has a hard time figuring out how to hold a bowl and scoop out the food
  • Has trouble learning to pedal or steer a tricycle or bike with training wheels
  • Has trouble throwing a ball
  • Is afraid to play ball games, like tossing a soft or squishy ball back and forth
  • Plays too roughly or often bumps into or pushes other kids by accident
  • Has trouble making hand motions and actions that go along with songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • Has trouble sitting upright or still

Signs of DCD in grades K–2

  • Struggles with puzzles and building blocks
  • Has trouble holding a pencil for writing or drawing
  • Fumbles with scissors and struggles to cut out shapes
  • Often bumps into people and things
  • Moves awkwardly and slowly, and may trip and fall a lot
  • Struggles with buttons and zippers
  • Often drops things
  • Has trouble jumping, hopping, and skipping
  • Hasn’t developed left- or right-hand dominance (using one hand for most activities)
  • Has a hard time copying notes from a board or other paper
  • Doesn’t correctly form letters or space them on the lines
  • Is slow to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels, or doesn’t learn at all
  • Has trouble with self-care routines like getting dressed and brushing teeth

Signs of DCD in grades 3–7

  • Writes with poor spacing between letters and words
  • Writes letters in different sizes
  • Takes a long time to write
  • Has trouble gripping a pencil and forming letters
  • Struggles to line up columns when doing math problems
  • Finds it hard to imitate movements in gym class or extracurricular sports
  • Frequently bumps into people
  • Often trips and falls
  • Has difficulty cutting foods
  • Has trouble with visual-spatial tasks, like moving game pieces on a board
  • Struggles with basic routines, like packing a backpack or getting dressed

Signs of DCD in tweens and teens

  • Struggles with the visual-spatial aspects of math, like geometry
  • Has trouble with sports that involve hand-eye coordination, like softball or table tennis
  • Trips and falls more often than other teens
  • Often bumps into people and things
  • Struggles to open the latch on a locker or use a combination lock
  • Avoids or struggles with texting and typing
  • Struggles to prepare simple foods, like a sandwich
  • Has trouble learning to drive (maneuvering a steering wheel or judging distances, like how close another car is when changing lanes)
  • Shies away from activities like sports or dancing

If you think your child might have DCD, reach out to your health care provider. You can walk through this list of signs together, and develop a plan from there.

You can help your child work on motor skills at home. Learn ways to help your child build fine and gross motor skills. And see how pencil grips can help with writing.

About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Priscila Tamplain, PhD is an associate professor in the department of kinesiology and the director of the Developmental Motor Cognition Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington.