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Developmental coordination disorder

Developmental coordination disorder is a childhood disorder that leads to poor coordination and clumsiness.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

About 5% of school-age children have some kind of developmental coordination disorder. Children with this disorder may:

  • Have trouble holding objects
  • Have an unsteady walk
  • Run into other children
  • Trip over their own feet

Developmental coordination disorder may occur alone or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other learning disorders, such as communication disorders or disorder of written expression .

Symptoms

Children with developmental coordination disorder have difficulties with motor coordination compared to other children the same age. Some common symptoms include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Delays in sitting up, crawling, and walking
  • Problems with sucking and swallowing during first year of life
  • Problems with gross motor coordination (for example, jumping, hopping, or standing on one foot)
  • Problems with visual or fine motor coordination (for example, writing, using scissors, tying shoelaces, or tapping one finger to another)

Signs and tests

Physical causes and other types of learning disabilities must be ruled out before the diagnosis can be confirmed.

Treatment

Physical education and perceptual motor training are the best ways to treat coordination disorder. Using a computer to take notes may help children who have trouble writing.

Children with developmental coordination disorder are three times more likely to be overweight than other children their age. Encouraging physical activity is important to prevent obesity.

Expectations (prognosis)

How well a child does depends on the severity of the disorder. The disorder does not get worse over time. It usually continues into adulthood.

Complications

  • Learning problems
  • Low self-esteem resulting from poor ability at sports and teasing by other children
  • Repeated injuries
  • Weight gain as a result of not wanting to participate in physical activities (such as sports)

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with a health care provider if you are concerned about your child's development.

Prevention

Families who are affected by this condition should try to recognize problems early and have them treated. Early treatment will lead to future success.

References

Nass R, Ross G. Developmental disabilities. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2012:chap 61.

Updated: 11/9/2012

Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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