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  • What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?

    What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?

    Developmental Coordination Disorder, or DCD, is a neuromotor disorder that can affect a child’s performance with gross motor activities. While a child may have difficulty with coordinating activities as a toddler, DCD is typically recognized at around age 5. A DCD diagnosis can be made by a child’s pediatrician and requires a combination of the following 4 criteria: 

    1. An early onset: As mentioned above, symptoms start in the early stages of development and may be more evident as the child continues to grow
    2. Motor deficits: The child has an inability or greater difficulty to perform age-appropriate skills such as running, jumping, throwing or catching a ball, writing, drawing, using scissors or learning new skills
    3. Motor deficits affect performance in everyday activities and school performance: This may include being clumsy, frequently dropping objects, taking longer periods of time to complete an activity, or difficulty keeping up with peers or classmates. 
    4. No other likely cause or diagnosis: As these presentations may be similar to other conditions in the pediatric population, it will be important to consider visual or intellectual impairments or other motor neurological conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy or a muscular dystrophy. If nothing else seems likely, it is possible that DCD is the cause of the impairments seen.  

    Physical therapy can address some of the impairments that are associated with DCD. As a child has difficulty coordinating movements, they may be less willing to engage in activities and this can lead to secondary impairments in strength, balance, endurance and flexibility. PT can also work on improving skills that a child may have difficulty doing such as climbing up and down stairs, running, jumping, skipping, kicking a ball and throwing. The therapist will also help design an individual and tailored home program to help with carry-over to achieve improvements in motor function quicker. 

    As a child begins to see improvements in motor skills, it can be common to see improvements in their confidence and desires to play more with peers. While team sports may be difficult for a child with DCD, research shows that there are benefits to group activities which can supplement the therapy they are receiving. 

    As a parent, being patient, encouraging, allowing for frequent practice and repetition are all great strategies to help your child. 


Call (802) 662-4672 or email us to schedule your child's first physical or occupational therapy appointment.

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