Developmental Coordination Disorder

Your child can't walk five steps without tripping over his own feet. He has trouble catching a ball, buttoning a shirt, or tying his shoes. You think he's just clumsy, but a doctor has suggested he might have developmental coordination disorder (DCD). How does this differ from the kind of motor planning problems seen with sensory integration disorder?

Making a DCD Diagnosis

Unlike sensory integration disorder, developmental coordination disorder is in fact in the DSM. A doctor using those guidelines to diagnose it would look for coordination problems that do the following:

  • Impair participation in normal life and school activities

  • Are below the child's chronological age

  • Are significantly below what is expected for the child's intelligence

  • Are not due to medical conditions such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy

  • Are not due to a pervasive developmental disorder

Signs of developmental coordination disorder are particularly noticeable in the delay of motor milestones, lack of ability in sports, and problems with handwriting.

The Sensory Integration Difference

There is a large overlap among dyspraxia from a sensory integration perspective and developmental coordination disorder. Delay of motor milestones, lack of ability in sports, and problems with handwriting are commonly seen in both children with sensory integration disorder with dyspraxia and developmental coordination disorder.

If your child has sensory-related motor planning problems, low muscle tone, and inadequate information from his proprioceptive and vestibular systems, clumsiness and lack of coordination can be major problems. However, it's unlikely that these would be your child's only problems.

One distinction lies in the nature of the disorder. Children can have poor coordination for many reasons; children with sensory integration disorder with motor planning problems (developmental dyspraxia) have an underlying problem of difficulty interpreting information received from their tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive senses that is believed to contribute to their difficulty in motor planning.

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