Neurological Disorders What Is Developmental Coordination Disorder? By Elizabeth Plumptre Elizabeth Plumptre LinkedIn Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 02, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Phynart Studio / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a neurodevelopmental condition. Otherwise known as dyspraxia, this disorder affects the development of motor skills and functions. It is a common challenge, affecting around 6% of children who are between five and 11 years old. A child with dyspraxia is often regarded as clumsy, and may experience difficulty with movement. This disorder prevents fluidity in activities like walking and holding objects, as expected of the child’s age group. Such difficulties may continue well into adolescence and adulthood. Despite its widespread nature, dyspraxia often goes unnoticed—even under observation by health experts. This guide will examine the signs and symptoms of developmental coordination disorder. To understand the origins of dyspraxia, the causes of this condition will be explored. We will also examine the different types, and management options available to control the effects of DCD. Symptoms of Developmental Coordination Disorder As part of their development, children learn a number of skills that are important for independent living. Among these are fine and gross motor skills. The former is responsible for minor movements such as picking things up, holding items, drawing, etc. Fine motor skills typically employ small muscles in the hands, wrist, fingers, feet, and toes—these skills determine our ability to pick things up, and write carefully. Gross motor skills require large muscle movements. These are required for walking, crawling, running, or sitting independently. When children begin to exhibit difficulty with fine or gross motor functions, it can suggest developmental coordination disorder. The following are signs that may indicate dyspraxia in children: Poor handwritingDifficulty with balance and coordinationVision problemsAwkward coordinationTrouble tying shoesChallenges throwing or kicking a ballPoor posture Developmental coordination problems may be associated with other developmental issues such as challenges with social interactions and can show signs of poor short-term memory.This disorder may not affect intellect, as average and above-average intelligence levels occur with dyspraxia. However, people with this condition may behave immaturely. Writing by Hand Boosts Brain Activity and Fine Motor Skills, Study Shows Causes of Developmental Coordination Disorder Despite an increase in dyspraxia research, there is yet to be a conclusive agreement on the causes of this condition. One suggestion claims that children with dyspraxia experience challenges with the cerebellum—a part of the brain responsible for balance and coordination. Some experimental research suggests that children have difficulty making motor behaviors automatic. Another theory suggests difficulties in planning and completing motor tasks as a cause of DCD. However, while there is yet to be a consensus, certain risk factors like premature births and low birth weight may increase the odds of dyspraxia. Research also suggests that postnatal exposure to steroids can be responsible for a child’s difficulties with motor coordination. Other studies identify a greater risk for obesity in children with DCD. Boys May Be More Likely to Have DCD Male children are more likely to live with this disorder. It is believed by some estimates that boys are 1.7 times more likely to live with dyspraxia than girls. Diagnosis of Developmental Coordination Disorder An accurate diagnosis of dyspraxia requires the expertise of professionals. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the following are the criteria used when confirming a case of this condition: A delay in acquiring and displaying motor function. This delay is observed following difficulty with activities like cutlery or scissors usage. The child may also struggle during more complex scenarios like sporting exercises. These challenges are usually below what is expected of a child in that age group. The difficulties experienced in motor function can interfere with daily life and the challenges affect a child’s schooling and play. A child living with developmental coordination disorder will display signs of this condition early in life. When screening for dyspraxia, the symptoms present should not be attributable to intellectual disabilities, neurological conditions, or visual challenges in the child. However, this condition may co-occur with anxiety, ADHD, learning disabilities, language challenges, and autism. Treatment of Developmental Coordination Disorder Beyond awkward movements and clumsy coordination, there are other consequences that follow life with developmental coordination disorder. This condition can lead to compromised physical well-being, obesity, hypermobility of the joints, and mental health challenges. But despite its impact on everyday life, dyspraxia is a disorder that can be managed with the right treatment methods. Management techniques may be task-based or process-oriented. Other approaches include physical therapy and medication. Task-Based: Task-oriented therapies focus on carrying out specific tasks to improve motor function. This will require specific therapies that focus on tasks like cutting paper with scissors, writing out a list, etc, in order to enhance the performance of these activities.Process Oriented Therapy: This approach to therapy aims to improve general motor skills, as opposed to those for specific tasks.Physical Therapy: Children with dyspraxia will typically exhibit an unsteadiness/delay in movement and executing tasks. Through proper physiotherapy, these difficulties can be managed. Physical therapy can help to improve motion, coordination, and agility through programs designed to build core strength, improve balance, and even strengthen movements.Medication: Stimulants such as methylphenidate may be prescribed, particularly if there is co-occurring ADHD. Methylphenidate helps to improve concentration and may help improve motor function. These effects can potentially help to improve the quality of life, and the performance of tasks in people with dyspraxia. How Long Does Methylphenidate Stay in Your System? A Word From Verywell When a child experiences delays in development, it can be very challenging for their well-being. Likewise, it can be difficult for parents and loved ones that witness these issues firsthand. Developmental coordination disorder is, however, manageable with the right treatment methods and therapies. Before deciding on a management approach, it's important to speak with an expert. These experts can provide a correct diagnosis and advice on the next steps to take. 9 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Kirby A, Sugden DA. Children with developmental coordination disorders. J R Soc Med. 2007;100(4):182-186. doi:10.1177/014107680710011414 Harris SR, Mickelson ECR, Zwicker JG. Diagnosis and management of developmental coordination disorder. CMAJ. 2015;187(9):659-665. doi:10.1503/cmaj.140994 Mokobane M, Pillay BJ, Meyer A. Fine motor deficits and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in primary school children. S Afr J Psychiatr. 2019;25:1232. Published 2019 Jan 22. doi:10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v25i0.1232 Gonzalez SL, Alvarez V, Nelson EL. Do Gross and Fine Motor Skills Differentially Contribute to Language Outcomes? A Systematic Review. Front Psychol. 2019;10:2670. Published 2019 Dec 3. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02670 NIH. Developmental Dyspraxia Information. Missiuna C, Gaines R, Soucie H, McLean J. Parental questions about developmental coordination disorder: A synopsis of current evidence. Paediatr Child Health. 2006;11(8):507-512. doi:10.1093/pch/11.8.507 Caçola P, Lage G. Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD): An overview of the condition and research evidence. Motriz: Revista de Educação Física. 2019;25(2). doi:10.1590/s1980-6574201900020001 Offor N, Ossom Williamson P, Caçola P. Effectiveness of Interventions for Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder in Physical Therapy Contexts: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis. J Mot Learn Dev. 2016;4(2):169-196. doi:10.1123/jmld.2015-0018 Morton WA, Stockton GG. Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2000;2(5):159-164. doi:10.4088/pcc.v02n0502 By Elizabeth Plumptre Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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