Children normally develop the ability to sit up, stand, walk, and talk at predictable ages. When they are late in achieving these milestones, it may be due to a developmental problem. Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is one such condition.
DCD is a lack of coordination between your mental intentions and your ability to get your body to carry out those intentions. For example, you might think, “I need to tie my shoe.” However, your brain does not properly send the instructions for shoe tying to your hands and feet. Your brain knows how to tie shoes, but your hands just can’t follow your brain’s instructions. The same thing happens when you try to run, jump, write, button a shirt, and many other tasks that most people take for granted.
People with DCD generally have normal intelligence. However, DCD is sometimes called “clumsy child syndrome,” and it may cause others to think that sufferers are inept or unintelligent because they cannot perform basic tasks. The condition can be frustrating and embarrassing, leading to problems with self-esteem and social isolation. Although considered a childhood disorder, the effects of DCD continue into adulthood.
The causes of DCD are not well understood, but researchers believe that it is the result of delayed brain development. People with DCD generally have no other medical issues that can explain the disorder. About six percent of school-age children have DCD, and it is more common in boys than girls. In some cases, DCD can occur with other disorders, such as mental retardation or attention deficit-disorder, though these conditions are not linked.
Signs of DCD can appear soon after birth. Newborns may have trouble learning how to suck and swallow milk. Toddlers may be slow to learn to roll over, sit, crawl, walk, and talk.
As you enter school, symptoms of the disorder may become more noticeable. Symptoms of DCD may include:
People with DCD may become self-conscious and withdraw from sports or social activities. However, limited exercise can lead to poor muscle tone and weight gain. Maintaining social involvement and good physical condition is essential for overcoming the challenges of DCD.
DCD is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms may be confused with those of other conditions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) lists four criteria that must be met for a diagnosis of DCD:
DCD is treated with a long-term program of education, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills training to help you adapt to the disorder.
Unfortunately, children with DCD generally continue to experience symptoms as adults. Proper training and education in motor skills can help you to lead a normal and fulfilling life. Your outlook depends on how well you adapt to DCD and overcome its limitations.