Developmental Coordination Disorder Symptoms

Are you a parent who’s worried about your young child because he or she seems to be behind their peers in developing simple gross motor skills? Is your child exceptionally clumsy as well as can’t hold onto items or bumps into walls and other things? Your child may be suffering from a childhood problem known as developmental coordination disorder, which is more than just being clumsy. Here’s what you need to know about developmental coordination disorder and how physical therapy can help in treating the condition.

What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?

Maybe you’ve heard of developmental coordination disorder (DCD) but aren’t quite sure what it is. Put simply, this condition, which was once known as dyspraxia, is a disorder in gross and fine motor skills that starts in childhood. Furthermore, DCD can also affect people in planning their movements and co-ordinations because their brain messages aren’t being transmitted correctly to the body.

Examples of DCD

People who suffer from this disorder may think that they need to tie their shoes, but their brain fails to transmit the instructions on how to do this task to their hands and feet. In other words, while the brain does know how to tie shoes, the hands are unable to carry through on the brain’s instructions. Likewise, the same scenario occurs when trying to perform other simple tasks most of us take for granted, such as running, jumping, buttoning a shirt, and other functions.

Common Symptoms

Some of the common signs and symptoms of DCD include:

  • Clumsiness and bumping into things or easily dropping items
  • Tripping over the feet without an obstacle in the way
  • Penmanship difficulties and/or messy handwriting
  • Problems using utensils and scissors
  • Delays in sitting, walking, and other gross motor milestones
  • Frequently running into items and other people
  • Having a hard time walking downstairs
  • Poor posture and balance
  • Unsteady walking gait
  • Difficulty riding a bike 

How Physical Therapy Can Help DCD

The most effective way to treat this disorder is by using physical therapy, which offers several benefits, such as:

  • Improves strength—A physical therapist shows both you and your child specific strengthening exercises.
  • Improves balance and coordination—By using a balance beam and other special equipment, your child works on balancing skills and motor movements.
  • Improves gross motor skills
  • Increases tolerance to aerobic activity
  • Improves body awareness
  • Increases overall functional mobility
Considerations and Warnings:
  • About five to six percent of school-aged children have DCD. It affects more boys than girls.
  • DCD can continue throughout the adolescent years and even into adulthood.
  • The disorder is often a co-diagnosis of ADHD and other learning disabilities.
  • Although having DCD can make a child want to avoid social functions and sporting activities, failing to exercise can cause weight gain and poor muscle tone. Thus, it’s important for people with DCD to exercise.
  • Diagnosing DCD can be difficult since it’s easy to confuse the symptoms of the disorder with other conditions. That’s why it’s critical to get a professional medical evaluation.
  • Even though DCD isn’t a learning disorder, it can affect learning.
  • Children and teens who have developmental coordination disorder are likely to perform poorly in academics, have poor self-esteem and not get enough physical activity.
  • When motor movements in a child are impaired, daily living activities can be significantly disrupted.
  • Occupational therapy is also helpful in treating the disorder.
  • Treatment plans vary, depending on the unique needs of a client. Therefore, a therapist determines the best approach for receiving the most benefit.

Your child doesn’t have to continue to struggle with DCD. The earlier the disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better the odds are that your child can reach his or her fullest potential. By getting physical therapy, a child who suffers from DCD is able to start enjoying a normal and higher quality of life. If you believe you or your child may have DCD, call and set up a Free Screen or Evaluation today. Please contact us at or call 570-208-2787.