Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a motor skills disorder that affects five to six percent of all school-aged children. It is more commonly found in boys than in girls (2:1 to 5:1, depending on the study). It is characterized by poor coordination and clumsiness. Frequently described as “clumsy” or “awkward” by their parents and teachers, children with DCD have difficulty mastering simple motor activities, such as tying shoes or going down stairs, and are unable to perform age-appropriate academic and self-care tasks. Some children may experience difficulties in a variety of areas while others may have problems only with specific activities.

Symptoms of DCD include clumsiness and delays in development. The child may have delays in reaching certain developmental hallmarks, like sitting, crawling and walking. He or she may have problems with sucking and swallowing during the first year of life. There may be problems with fine motor coordination (small precise movements), like tying of shoelaces or using scissors. There may also be problems with gross motor activities (using larger muscle groups in a coordinated fashion) like jumping, running, balancing on one foot, or hopping. The child may “trip over his (or her) own feet”, have an unsteady gait, or have trouble holding onto objects.  It is estimated that 6% of school-age children have some degree of DCD. A child with DCD may also have a learning disability, communication disorders or problems writing (poor handwriting, spelling, and difficulty with grammar and pronunciation). Click here for more information about symptoms

DCD is commonly associated with other developmental conditions. Patients with DCD may also have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities (LD), speech-language delays and emotional and behavioural problems.

Diagnostic Criteria for DCD:

  • A child is below his or her age level for learning and execution of coordinated motor skills.
  • Difficulty with motor skills interferes with activities of daily living, school performance or play.
  • Onset is in the early developmental period.
  • Motor skill difficulties are not better explained by intellectual delay, visual impairment or other neurological conditions that affect movement.

While it was once thought that children with DCD would simply outgrow their motor difficulties, research tells us that DCD persists throughout adolescence into adulthood. Children with DCD can and do learn to perform certain motor tasks well, however, they have difficulty when faced with new, age-appropriate ones and are at risk for secondary difficulties that result from their motor challenges.