Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a motor skills disorder that affects five to six percent of all school-aged children. The ratio of boys to girls varies from 2:1 to 5:1, depending on the group studied. DCD occurs when a delay in the development of motor skills, or difficulty coordinating movements, results in a child being unable to perform common, everyday tasks. By definition, children with DCD do not have an identifiable medical or neurological condition that explains their coordination problems.
Frequently described as "clumsy" or "awkward" by their parents and teachers, children with DCD have difficulty mastering simple motor activities, such as tying shoes or going down stairs, and are unable to perform age-appropriate academic and self-care tasks. Some children may experience difficulties in a variety of areas while others may have problems only with specific activities. Children with DCD usually have normal or above average intellectual abilities. However, their motor coordination difficulties may impact their academic progress, social integration and emotional development.
DCD is commonly associated with other developmental conditions, including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities (LD), speech-language delays and emotional and behavioural problems.
Occupational therapists (OTs) are educated and trained in analyzing motor skill development and also in determining the ability of a child to cope with the demands and activities of everyday life. OTs are uniquely suited for making recommendations for the management of a child with movement problems. In today’s health care environment, OTs often function in the role of consultant; this is particularly true of therapists working within school settings. In a consultant role, the therapist will observe the child performing tasks that are difficult for him/her and make recommendations to his/her parents and educators. These recommendations may include: strategies or accommodations to assist with tasks at home, at school, or in the community; modifications to the child’s environment; ways to promote physical activity and increase participation; guidelines on choosing community leisure and sports activities that are matched to the child’s interests and abilities; and assistance with setting appropriate expectations to ensure success.