Developmental Coordination Disorder


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 1Michelle BerubeKelcey ErlandsonStephanie HaugHeather JohnstoneMeghan MeagherShirley Sarkodee-AdooJill 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 people move and coordinate their movements.  It is estimated that this disorder affects approximately 5% of the population, and the prevalence is higher amongst people 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, and every day activities.

People with DCD can not 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 gestation.

DSM-5 classifies DCD as a motor disorder under the broader heading of neurodevelopmental disorders. The DSM-5 criteria for DCD are as follows:

  • Acquisition and execution of coordinated motor skills are below what would be expected at a given chronologic age and opportunity for skill learning and use; difficulties are manifested as clumsiness (eg, dropping or bumping into objects) and as slowness and inaccuracy of performance of motor skills (eg, catching an object, using scissors, handwriting, riding a bike, or participating in sports)
  • The motor skills deficit significantly or persistently interferes with activities of daily living appropriate to the chronologic age (eg, self-care and self-maintenance) and impacts academic/school productivity, prevocational and vocational activities, leisure, and play
  • The onset of symptoms is in the early developmental period
  • The motor skills deficits cannot be better explained by intellectual disability or visual impairment and are not attributable to a neurologic condition affecting movement (eg, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or a degenerative disorder)

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)  is a common disorder that affects movement and co-ordination. It is also known as dyspraxia). This disorder affects basic motor skills such as walking or sitting upright and fine motor skills such as writing or picking up small objects in children and adults. It is a condition that will last for life and is recognised by international organisations, including the World Health Organization. DCD is different from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs in people of all intellectual abilities.

Symptoms of DCD or Dyspraxia

The symptoms can vary between individuals and may change over time.

Co-ordination difficulties are the main problem. The co-ordination difficulties associated with DCD can reduce the person's ability to participate and function in education and employment.

Difficulties with self-care, writing, typing, riding a bike and playing may start in childhood and continue into adulthood and as an adult may also experience new difficulties, for example with driving a vehicle or ‘do it yourself’ tasks.

Other Difficulties Relating to Adulthood

Adults with dyspraxia may also have social and emotional difficulties, as well as problems with time management, planning and personal organisation. These may affect the person's education or employment.

Diagnosing Adult DCD or Dyspraxia

See your doctor if you think you have undiagnosed co-ordination or movement difficulties. You may be referred for an assessment by a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist, who will look at your ability to move. DCD is a condition only really recognised in the last 20 years or so. This means there could be many adults with dyspraxia who were not diagnosed as children.

Who is affected?

It is more common in men, and often runs in families. It is not known what causes DCD, but some children born prematurely and small for gestational age have a higher risk of having this disorder.

People with DCD may also have other conditions, such as:


Treating DCD/Dyspraxia in Adults

DCD does not affect intelligence, but may make learning new skills more difficult. Adults with dyspraxia may have developed coping strategies to find ways around everyday tasks they find difficult. For example, you may find your movement problems improve as you find ways to adapt. As you grow older and accept yourself, your confidence and self-esteem may also improve. This may be because the pressure to 'fit in' as an adult is not as strong as when you were a child and teenager.

Some people also find staying fit helps their co-ordination, reduces feelings of fatigue and helps with potential weight gain.


Although there is no cure for this disorder, there are therapies to help adults cope. These are described below.

  • Occupational therapy can help you find ways to remain independent and manage everyday tasks such as dressing yourself or getting to the local shops. Your occupational therapist can help you work out practical solutions.
  • Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) may also help. CBT aims to help you talk about your problems and identify ways to change your behaviour so you can manage your problems more effectively. SFBT aims to help you identify what you wish to achieve through therapy, rather than talking about the problem itself.
  • Speech and language therapy can be useful if you have problems with speech or language, or both. Your therapist will arrange a programme to address your needs.

Other conditions

If you have DCD, you may also have another health condition that requires separate treatment. For example:

  • Depression or feelings of sadness this can be treated with a combination of exercise, talking therapies and medication
  • Anxiety feelings of worry and unease and this can be treated with medication, talking therapies and a number of self-help measures, such as relaxation techniques

DCD awareness week October 6-11 2021

Useful websites and resources:

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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].