What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2018
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Developmental coordination disorder is a condition in which a person of normal intelligence and physical development has trouble performing motor skills that require coordination, like running or catching a ball. This condition typically begins during childhood and continues into adulthood. A person with the disorder usually simply appears clumsy or unskilled at physical activity, but he or she does not have the motor skill development to improve, even with practice. The disorder may be present alone or in combination with a learning disability.

The symptoms of developmental coordination disorder often begin during infancy. An infant with the condition may have difficulty coordinating his or her mouth to suck on a bottle or breastfeed. He or she may take longer to sit up or crawl compared to other kids in his or her age group.

As a child matures and starts walking and performing tasks, the symptoms may become more obvious. He or she may trip or stumble when walking or running, and may also have difficulty jumping or balancing on one foot. These symptoms are often dismissed as simple clumsiness or lack of grace and may not even be noticeable. Fine motor difficulties may be easier to spot as symptoms of the disorder. These include trouble tying shoes, holding a pencil, operating scissors, or even drumming his or her fingertips together.


Developmental coordination disorder does not have a proven cause. It may be due to some type of physical abnormality that prevents a person from being able to properly execute movements. The disorder may potentially be a result of an issue that caused some type of delay during development that keeps a person from effectively forming motor skills.

The disorder is typically not detrimental to a person’s health, but it can cause some possible complications. Since a person may have trouble performing physical activity, he or she may avoid trying to exercise due to frustration, fear of being ridiculed, or because he or she is afraid of an injury. Children with the disorder may experience emotional stress if they are made fun of due to their lack of coordination and may feel like outcasts if they can’t participate in competitive sports.

Although developmental coordination disorder cannot be cured or treated, a person may benefit from counseling sessions to deal with his or her daily life. A person with the disorder may need guidance on how to perform physical activity without injuring him or herself. A counselor may also be able to give advice on how to best handle the emotional effects of the disorder.



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