NURTURE INFORMATION HUB
Developmental Coordination Disorder also known as Dyspraxia
Developmental Coordination Disorder in school aged children born very pre term and/or at very low birthweight – A Systematic Review
Jessica Edwards 1, Michelle Berube, Kelcey Erlandson, Stephanie Haug, Heather Johnstone, Meghan Meagher, Shirley Sarkodee-Adoo, Jill G Zwicker
Researchers still do not know the exact cause of DCD or why some children develop it and others do not. There have been many studies done on the relationship between prematurity and DCD. In all of the studies, DCD has been found to occur more often in babies that are born very early or have a low-birth weight. It is important that children who were born prematurely are identified if they are experiencing developmental delays or signs of DCD. Children with DCD should have access to therapies and early intervention to support their development.
What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a motor disorder that affects how children move and coordinate their movements. It is estimated that this disorder affects approximately 5% of children, and the prevalence is higher amongst children who were born preterm. Every individual may experience difficulties in different ways. These difficulties may impact on participation in everyday life skills including in education, learning to speak, and everyday activities.
Children with DCD can have difficulties getting dressed, learning how to tie shoes, writing, learning to ride a bike and keeping up with other children during physical activity tasks. They are often slower at completing tasks and may get tired more easily.
These children cannot have their difficulties with movement explained by a general medical condition such as; Cerebral Palsy, Hemiplegia or Muscular Dystrophy. Studies involving school-aged children showed increased numbers of DCD among children who had very low birth weights below 1500 g or were very preterm under 32 weeks than among age children born at term with normal birth weights. This means not all babies born very small and very early will have this problem but within the numbers of children that have this problem an increase prevalence was born early and small for gestationDSM-5 classifies DCD as a motor disorder under the broader heading of neurodevelopmental disorders. The DSM-5 criteria for DCD are as follows:
Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a condition that needs to be managed over the course of a lifetime. The challenges in this disorder make it hard for kids to preform motor skills and coordination. It’s not a learning disorder, but it can impact learning. Kids with DCD struggle with physical tasks and activities and they need to do both in and out of school..
Children with DCD can struggle with many tasks that other children find easy during school including printing, cutting, opening lunch boxes, and keeping up on the playground. They may also have difficulty with organisation, speed of writing and participation in sport. Sometimes they can experience sadness or anxiety because they find it difficult to keep up with other children their own age.
Children with DCD/Dyspraxia might show these signs:
What conditions may coexist with the disorder?
Children who have developmental coordination disorder frequently have other childhood disorders like for example; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder or specific learning disabilities and children with developmental coordination disorder (with or without ADHD) have been found to be at increased risk of anxiety and depression.
Other problems commonly associated with DCD are psychosocial difficulties like weight gain, physical fitness, difficulty in activities of daily-living, physical and social activities.
Young children with DCD may be eligible for supports under the Early Intervention Program with NDIS. If your child has developmental delays or you have concerns about their motor skills you should talk to your health care professional and see if they can refer you for services through NDIS. You can get more information about the Early Intervention program here: https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/how-ndis-works/help-children-under-7
You may also be able to access supports and therapies through the medicare system. You can ask your doctor about whether they can provide you with a GP Management Plan to access allied health services for your child. Many families find Occupational Therapists can provide helpful strategies to support their child’s development.
Strategies that support the child with DCD
Ways to Help Yourself as a Parent
Access information about the condition and its symptoms.
Explain the extra support your child needs to everyone involved in the child’s care and education.
Try to stay calm and patient when your child has difficulty with tasks that other children their age find easy to complete.
Obtain information about what can be done to help your child.
Determine specifically where and how to help our child.
Access funding or services that might not otherwise be accessible.
Get in touch with other parents who have had similar experiences
Here are some of the ways that children are screened for DCD
Useful websites and resources: