Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a lifelong condition that makes it hard to learn motor skills and coordination. It’s not a learning disorder, but it can impact learning. Kids with DCD struggle with physical tasks and activities they need to do both in and out of school.
Learning how to support your child with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a journey. Along the way, you’ll learn about symptoms, treatment options and what schools and professionals can do to help. But there’s so much else to know about DCD, which you may have heard
referred to as dyspraxia.
This overview gives you the basics, so you can start helping your child. It also leads to more in-depth information on DCD.
Snapshot: What DCD Is
DCD is a condition that makes it hard to learn coordination and motor skills (including motor planning). At least 5 percent of kids have it. DCD is more common in boys than in girls. Kids don’t outgrow it, but they can improve their motor skills.
DCD isn’t a
. It’s considered a neurodevelopmental disorder, like ADHD. But it can make it hard for kids to do schoolwork and keep up with classroom lessons. It can also make it difficult for them to participate in gym class. DCD often co-occurs with other conditions, and the symptoms may overlap.
Kids with DCD struggle with many of the tasks needed for learning in school. These include writing, copying from the board and organizing their things.
DCD can create challenges outside of school, too. Motor planning problems can make it hard to figure out the steps of self-care routines, like brushing teeth and getting dressed. Kids may have trouble preparing a bowl of cereal with milk for themselves. Trouble with balance may make it hard for them to sit still and eat properly.
DCD is an impairment in movement skills, including:
Weakness in these skills can impact other motor abilities that people use every day. These include:
Being able to quickly change their movement in new situations
Moving their body in the right way
Learning new movements
Predicting the outcome of their movements
Finding and using solutions to motor task problems
Kids with DCD may have trouble using feedback from earlier experiences to adjust their movements. For instance, if they position their fork the wrong way, they don’t automatically learn from that and do it right the next time.
They may also have
trouble sequencing. So, planning the movements needed to do a task in the right order can be difficult. Trouble with balance can make kids with DCD appear clumsy. They often bump into other people by accident and drop things they’re holding.
Kids develop movement skills at different rates. So, when they’re young, it may be hard to know if their difficulties will pass on their own. But even in preschool (or before), there can be signs that a child has weaknesses and needs intervention to improve.
Most kids with DCD have at least one learning or thinking difference, too.
is one of the most common conditions that co-occur with DCD. In fact, half of all kids with DCD also have ADHD.
But DCD can just look like other issues. For example, because of balance problems, kids with DCD often have trouble sitting upright or sitting still. They may move around a lot to keep their bodies up.
An assessment for DCD isn’t the same as an evaluation for learning and thinking differences. So if you or your child’s doctor suspect that other issues might also be at play, it’s important to seek a
full evaluation to find out.
The most common ages to evaluate for DCD are 5 and 6. Evaluators will look at motor and cognitive skills. They’ll ask questions about other factors that could be having an impact, too, in school and home life. They’ll also want to know whether your child has hit certain milestones in development and when symptoms began.
Evaluators use certain tests to assess movement skills. These skills include:
Range of motion
Fine motor control
Evaluators might look at dexterity by having kids do things like trace and string beads. They might assess visual-perception skills by looking at how well kids can draw a progression of shapes and stay in the lines when drawing.
One of the most important things you can do is
be an advocate for your child with DCD. That starts with understanding the challenges and letting your child know you’re going to be there every step of the way.