By Michelle Spevak
Physical Therapist, Huff Center Therapies at Mission Children’s Hospital
As a parent or caregiver, you know that children develop movement skills at varying ages. Some children may have a barrier that impacts the developmental progress of their movement skills, known as developmental coordination disorder. A child with DCD may appear clumsy or awkward.
DCD is defined as poor motor coordination in relation to child’s chronological age and intelligence and is not due to a medical condition. DCD interferes with a child’s ability in play, recreational activities, sports, school and activities. An estimated 6 percent of children have developmental coordination disorder.
For children with DCD, learning to ride a bike, skip or jump rope may not be fun or rewarding. Children with DCD have difficulty adapting the speed, timing, force or distance of movement required for such tasks. Also children with DCD have difficulty integrating visual, proprioceptive (the awareness of posture, movement and changes in equilibrium as they relate to the body) and tactile input for a motor plan; therefore, they are unable to learn motor skills through observing peers and relying on environmental cues and feedback from their own body as readily.
Researchers believe DCD results from a dysfunction in the part of the brain responsible for storing or remembering movement patterns. Therefore, when a child with DCD makes an error in a movement skill the child may repeat the task over and over again without success or may repeat the whole task rather than the most recent step where the error was made. While each child with DCD is different, many have:
•Difficulty in learning motor skills like skipping, hopping, riding a bike, cutting, coloring or writing
•Difficulty in learning balance tasks like standing on one foot to kick a ball or walk stairs
•Difficulty in learning coordination tasks like jumping jacks, throwing or catching a ball, or imitating others’ movements
•Difficulty in completing self-care tasks such as feeding, bathing, dressing, tying shoes
•Difficulty with falling, bumping into things, dropping objects
•Difficulty with tasks requiring more than one step or compared to peers