Understanding Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

Research indicates that approximately one child in every average-sized classroom is suffering from Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia. Despite the fact that 5-6% of all school-age children have this condition, many people do not fully understand exactly how it affects the everyday lives of those diagnosed with it. Therefore, it is crucial to create awareness to ensure proper support.

What exactly is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a disorder that affects motor skills and motor planning – the organisation of movement – which consequently affects a child’s ability to perform daily tasks. This includes everything from tying shoelaces, fastening buttons, writing legibly and even speech. Children with dyspraxia struggle to learn physical movements and adapt them for appropriate use in subsequent situations. It does not affect a child’s intellectual ability, but it can have a significant impact on a child’s balance, memory and, importantly, their social skills: a child with dyspraxia may find it challenging to walk, jump, run and catch or throw a ball – in essence, to play with peers on the playground. This can lead to frustration and social isolation.

How is DCD diagnosed?

Following a developmental assessment, a child can be diagnosed with dyspraxia if the following criteria are met: the motor execution is below the expected level for their age; lack of motor skills impact a child’s activities of daily living and affect academic productivity; the onset is during the early stage of the child’s development; and motor skill difficulties are not better explained by a general learning disability or other medical conditions. Children normally do not outgrow these motor challenges, but early intervention and treatment may help to mitigate the physical, emotional and social ramifications associated with the condition.

What are the treatment options for DCD?

Dyspraxia requires an interdisciplinary approach for effective management, and a number of healthcare professionals – such as paediatricians and educational psychologists – can support a child before/after diagnosis. An occupational therapist can help by adapting equipment or breaking down actions into small steps that can be planned and practiced. Thankfully, with adequate support, a child with dyspraxia can maintain a good quality of life.

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