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Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD)

Read about symptoms of developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) in children, also known as dyspraxia.

Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) can cause a wide range of problems. Some of these may be noticeable at an early age, while others may only become more obvious as your child gets older.

Problems in infants

Delays in reaching normal developmental milestones can be an early sign of DCD in young children. For example, your child may take slightly longer than expected to roll over, sit, crawl or walk.

You may also notice that your child shows unusual body positions (postures) during their first year.

Although these may come and go, they also:

  • have difficulty playing with toys that involve good co-ordination such as stacking bricks
  • may have some difficulties learning to eat with cutlery

Problems in older children

As your child gets older, they may develop more noticeable physical difficulties in addition to a number of other problems.

Movement and co-ordination problems

Problems with movement and co-ordination are the main symptoms of DCD.

Children may have difficulties:

  • with playground activities such as hopping, jumping, running, and catching or kicking a ball – they often avoid joining in because of their lack of co-ordination and may find physical education difficult
  • walking up and down stairs
  • writing, drawing and using scissors – their handwriting and drawings may appear scribbled and more childish than other children their age
  • getting dressed, doing up buttons and tying shoelaces
  • keeping still – they may swing or move their arms and legs a lot

A child with DCD may appear awkward and clumsy as they may bump into objects, drop things and fall over a lot.

But this in itself isn't necessarily a sign of DCD, as many children who appear clumsy actually have all the normal movement (motor) skills for their age.

Some children with DCD may also become less fit than other children as their poor performance in sport may result in them being reluctant to exercise.

Additional problems

As well as difficulties related to movement and co-ordination, children with DCD can also have a range of other problems, such as:

  • difficulty concentrating – they may have a poor attention span and find it difficult to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes
  • difficulty following instructions and copying down information – they may do better at school in a one-to-one situation than in a group, as they're able to be guided through work
  • being poor at organising themselves and getting things done
  • not automatically picking up new skills – they need encouragement and repetition to help them learn
  • difficulties making friends – they may avoid taking part in team games and may be bullied for being "different" or clumsy
  • behaviour problems – often stemming from a child's frustration with their symptoms
  • low self-esteem

But although children with DCD may have poor co-ordination and some of these additional problems, other aspects of development – for example, thinking and talking – are usually unaffected.

Related conditions

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

Some children with DCD have difficulty co-ordinating the movements required to produce clear speech.

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