Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a motor disability marked by a notable delay in the acquisition of age-appropriate, motor-based skills. Unlike other neuromotor disorders, there are no apparent links to the brain or spinal cord damage in children with DCD. Although there is substantial research studying individuals with DCD, the cause of DCD remains unknown.
Typically, children with DCD display 'awkward,' 'clumsy movements,' poor coordination and often complain of tripping or falling into objects. Without support, children with DCD often have delayed motor skills acquisition and indicate it requires more effort to complete similar activities than unaffected children of similar age. Motor skill problems can negatively affect functional skills such as throwing and catching a ball, jumping, writing or drawing on paper, tying shoelaces, and many more.
To determine a child's impaired performance with daily activities, occupational therapists often complete assessments with children. Occupational therapists sometimes use the Perceived Efficacy and Goal Setting System (PEGS), which was developed to allow children between the ages of 5 and 9 to rate their performance of typical self-care, school, and leisure activities. This assessment informs occupational therapists of daily activities that a child may struggle with, which can later be prioritized during the intervention phase of therapy.
So how can occupational therapists help a child diagnosed with DCD? Well, the answer depends on the child's specific motor control and coordination issues. For example, some children with DCD have difficulties with handwriting, such as slow writing or illegible work. Poor handwriting skills impact a child's academic performance leading to lower grades and cause a child to feel embarrassed or discouraged in school. To minimize impairments with performance, an occupational therapist may develop a treatment plan to educate and coach a child to improve their skills and performance with handwriting. Alternatively, occupational therapists may recommend using a computer as an alternative. Computers offer several advantages over pen and paper as the demand to engage in the activity are lower.
Cermak, S. A., & Larkin, D. (2002). Developmental coordination disorder. Cengage Learning.
Missiuna, C., & Pollock, N. (2000). Perceived efficacy and goal setting in young children. Canadian journal of occupational therapy, 67(3), 101-109.