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Developmental Co-ordination Disorder previously known as Dyspraxia

Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination. It causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for their age and appear to move clumsily.  DCD is thought to be around 3 or 4 times more common in boys than girls, and the condition sometimes runs in families.



Early developmental milestones of crawling, walking, self-feeding and dressing may be delayed in young children with DCD. Drawing, writing and performance in sports are also usually behind what is expected for their age.

Although signs of the condition are present from an early age, children vary widely in their rate of development. This means a definite diagnosis of DCD does not usually happen until a child with the condition is 5 years old or more.


Signs 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 1st year

  • has difficulty playing with toys that involve good co-ordination, such as stacking bricks

  • has some difficulty learning to eat with cutlery

These signs might come and go.




Signs in older children:

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

  • 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 downstairs

  • Writing, drawing and using scissors – their handwriting and drawings may appear scribbled and less developed compared to 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. (This 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 other problems such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating – they may have a poor attention span and find it difficult to focus on 1 thing for more than a few minutes

  • Difficulty following instructions and copying information – they may do better at school in a 1-to-1 or small group for small periods of time during a lesson, so they can be guided through work

  • Being poor at organising themselves and getting things done

  • Being slow to pick up new skills – they need encouragement and repetition to help them learn

  • Difficulty 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


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

Your child may need help from a paediatric occupational therapist, who can assess their abilities in daily activities, such as:

  • using cutlery

  • dressing

  • using the toilet

  • playing

  • fine movement activities such as writing

Recommended Resources

Click on the logo to access the website or resource

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Dyspraxia Foundation

The Dyspraxia Foundation is committed to making the teaching and medical professions more aware of dyspraxia, and to spread understanding of how those who have the condition can be helped.  Contact the Foundation's helpline on 01462 454 986

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What are hypermobility, JHS and EDS?

Learn about joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) and the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) and how they affect pupils at school. Click the image for more information.

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