Developmental coordination disorder (DCD)



Jessika F van Hoorn, Marina M Schoemaker, Ilse Stuive, Pieter U Dijkstra, Francisca Rodrigues Trigo Pereira, Corry K van der Sluis, Mijna Hadders-Algra  

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) also known as Dyspraxia is a motor skill disorder that significantly interferes with activities of daily life. By definition, DCD is a broad concept. It refers to children who lack adequate motor skills required for everyday tasks, such as dressing, eating, tying shoelaces, active play, and writing. These deficits are not explained by the child’s age or intelligence, nor by an identifiable neurological disorder. 


What is Dyspraxia? 

Dyspraxia (DCD) is a condition that causes problems with movement and co-ordination. When children have this, they may appear clumsier than their peers and the condition will adversely affect how well they effect physical activities. For this reason, they may reach some of their key developmental milestones later than expected. There are varying degrees of the condition, so children who have it may exhibit symptoms sooner, later, or more/less severely than others. 

  • The condition cannot be cured, so needs to be managed (usually right into adulthood)  
  • Dyspraxia affects 3 to 4 times more boys than girls. 
  • It’s not usually possible to get a definitive diagnosis before a child is at least 4 to 5. 
  • The condition is also sometimes referred to as Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function (SDDMF). 
  • Children with dyspraxia often have other conditions including ADHD, autism, dyslexia and/or sometimes problems with speech.

Babies and toddlers with dyspraxia may start to exhibit a delay in starting to crawl, roll or sit. Before they’re one, they may also end up in odd body positions or have strange posture. 

As they develop and grow older, they may show difficulty when they eventually walk, feed themselves, dress, draw and/or write. They may have trouble stacking things, playing with certain toys, using pencils, using cutlery, eating and generally co-ordinating their movements. Playground activities like running, jumping, and kicking or catching a ball may be difficult for them to co-ordinate correctly. Trouble with buttoning clothing when they’re older and tying show laces is also a classic sign. 

Why Children Develop Dyspraxia 

It’s not known why children develop dyspraxia/DCD but children are more likely to develop it 

  • if they were born prematurely 
  • if they were low in weight at birth 
  • if they come from a family with a history of it. 
  • if their mothers drank alcohol or took illegal drugs whilst pregnant.

Diagnosing Dyspraxia/DCD 

If you suspect that your baby, toddler, or child may exhibiting possible symptoms of dyspraxia/DCD, you should consult your GP. Your child may then be referred to a specialist healthcare professional who can assess them. Diagnosis itself is usually undertaken by a paediatrician, often in tandem with an occupational therapist who will later be involved in treatment if the diagnosis turns out to be positive.  


Early diagnosis of dyspraxia in children means that treatment (which essentially is directed at practising and improving motor skills) can be started early. This will help children address and manage their difficulties and reduce the impact of the condition by helping them catch up with their peers. 

Treatment will usually involve one or more people from the same team of healthcare professionals who were involved in the diagnosis of dyspraxia. For example: 

  • An occupational therapist can help your child with everyday activities at home and school, such as eating, getting dressed and holding a pen or pencil to write. 
  • A physiotherapist may help with motor skills. 
  • A speech and language therapist can work with your child to help their speech and communication.  
  • An educational psychologist may help if your child is having difficulty progressing at school. 

Whatever treatments your child is offered, it is likely to be important for you to encourage them to practise, as it is through repeating and over-learning tasks that their 'nerve connections' will become effective.  

Useful Links 

Miracle Babies Foundation 

DCD Australia 


Confirmation Content

Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances. To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].