As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. If you could, you’d shelter them from any pain or discomfort—though you know it’s impossible to navigate life without any challenges. Whoever said being a parent is like watching your heart walk around on the outside was so right.
When you notice your child struggling with learning a new skill—it’s hard to witness their frustration. Looking back now, you realize you may have witnessed signs of their difficulties with motor skill development back when they were a toddler or in preschool.
Maybe your child recently received this diagnosis and you’re struggling to accept the label and to understand what it means—as well as how this issue will impact your family.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)—so you can better understand how it’s diagnosed and treated. We hope it supports you in becoming a strong advocate and supporter of your child with DCD.
What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?
Developmental Coordination Disorder is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts a person’s ability to coordinate and perform motor movements. It also impacts motor planning.
DCD causes issues impairments in movement, impacting—
Fine motor skills
Gross motor skills
Motor planning skills
Kids with DCD are typically not diagnosed until they begin attending school. This is because the red flags for DCD are often difficult to spot—especially for parents who have no training in what to be on the lookout for, and may chalk up the early signs of DCD in their child as stemming from a different cause altogether.
As there’s a range of what’s considered within normal developmental limits when it comes to motor skill acquisition, young children with DCD may simply seem to lag behind their same-aged peers in their motor skills development.
But, as children develop, the signs of Developmental Coordination Disorder become easier to recognize—particularly when children with DCD are compared to their same-aged peers.
Young children with DCD may have difficulty holding and using eating utensils. They may struggle with tossing or catching a ball, or even have difficulty sitting upright in a chair.
As children with DCD grow and enter school, different issues with their motor skills will likely become evident and may include—
Difficulty using scissors
Difficulty holding and using crayons, markers, or other writing and drawing implements
Trouble with writing skills, including spacing out letters
Difficulty with using technological items like tablets
In addition to these issues which may show up in the school setting, kids with DCD also tend to struggle with—
Brushing their teeth hand hair
Cutting up their food
Performing movements like jumping, hopping, or skipping
Spatial awareness skills (which may show up as clumsiness or being unintentionally rough with playmates)
Kids with DCD may also experience difficulty with tasks like walking up and down stairs. In short—it’s clear to see the many ways an issue like Developmental Coordination Disorder can disrupt a child’s life on a daily basis.
Thankfully, there is help available to families who are coping with a child with DCD. Let’s take a look at how DCD is diagnosed and treated.
How is Developmental Coordination Disorder assessed and treated?
Assessment by a healthcare professional is an important and necessary step in officially diagnosing your child with DCD. That’s because DCD can sometimes look like other disorders, and it can also co-occur with other issues.
Some of the disorders that can mimic or co-occur with DCD include—
Issues with sensory processing
Issues with executive functioning
Anxiety and other mental health issues
If you’re concerned about your child’s development and are interested in pursuing an evaluation, you can reach out to your child’s healthcare provider to get the processing started, or connect with their school or teacher to inquire about how to set up an assessment for your child.
You can also reach out to us, directly. At The Loop, our therapists are involved at every level of the evaluation and treatment process, and we’d be happy to help you navigate this journey.
If a thorough evaluation determines your child is experiencing Developmental Coordination Disorder, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan to target their areas of need. We’ll work closely with your child’s teacher and you to ensure your child’s therapy is holistic and really makes a difference in their educational experience and life as a whole.
Treatment for DCD is typically administered by an Occupational Therapist. Depending on where the issues related to DCD are impacting your child in the school setting (and if any issues are present along with their DCD) a Speech and Language Pathologist may also be involved.
Here at The Loop, we have an excellent team of Occupational Therapists and Speech-Language Pathologists, who are highly qualified and skilled at treating children with issues, including DCD.
While our treatments are never one-size-fits-all and will be tailored specifically for your child and based around their needs and preferences, there are some common features to DCD therapy.
Your child’s OT will focus on helping them practice and master common motor skills and routines, such as getting dressed, brushing their teeth, using eating utensils, or holding and writing with a pen or pencil. Your child’s OT will work to improve your child’s motor skills and planning abilities.
Because your child attends school, it’s crucial to provide assistance and accommodations in this setting for their Developmental Coordination Disorder. This way, your child can participate fully in a robust educational experience. Let’s review some modifications that can be put in place to help your child succeed and thrive in school.
How can schools make accommodations for students with DCD?
Your child spends a good deal of time in school. So it’s important we consider this setting when it comes to their therapy for DCD.
The Loop delivers quality therapy right in your child’s school. This makes it easy for us to be on the frontlines—making certain your child has any supports and modifications in place to help them succeed.
In the school setting, many strategies can be implemented to help your child. Some common modifications we make for children with DCD include—
Providing your child with special items like pencil grips, speciality paper, slant boards, alternative writing implements, or spring-loaded scissors
Arranging the classroom so your child can sit in close proximity to the teacher or board
Enlisting the help of other students to support your child during the school day
Providing your child with extra time to transition between classes
Building in time for your child to move around during the school day
Making modifications to your child’s desk to best support their optimal positioning
Allowing your child to work standing up if appropriate
Providing and training your child to use any appropriate assistive devices
In addition to these modifications, we’ll also work closely with your child’s teacher to ensure necessary modifications are made to how information is provided to your child, as well as the expectations for their school work. We may work with your child’s teacher to make adjustments for them such as—
Giving your child additional time to complete in-class tests and homework assignments
Using multimodal cues to help your child grasp assignments and concepts
Use larger print notebooks, extbooks, and worksheets with your child
Allow your child to use speech-dictation devices, electronic items, or provide them with a buddy to help them take notes effectively
While the specific accommodations we recommend and make will depend upon your child’s individual needs, it’s clear to see there are many different ways we can work to modify the school environment to best support your child in their learning experience.
Your child deserves access to the same educational experience as their same-aged peers. Here at The Loop, we’re honored to help find ways to offer that to them. We’re here for you, as well, and will gladly help you learn and implement any strategies that will help support your child’s progress in your home. Together, we can help your child accomplish anything!
You can reach out to us directly, via our website, follow us on social media @TheLoopSLL, or send us an email with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S.—Did you know The Loop is your go-to for all things therapy? Our exclusive model allows us to partner with private schools in Chicago to offer the highest quality services to students and families in need. On top of our awesome occupational therapy and speech and language therapy services, we also offer many excellent educational support services. We provide executive function coaching, learning remediation, and educational consultancy and advocacy.