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DCD in Adults

DCD is a lifelong condition. The impact of DCD can vary across the lifespan, and from one individual to another. This is particularly so in late adolescence and into adulthood, where lives vary greatly in regard to forms of education, employment, lifestyles and living arrangements. These variations occur at a time when we have less structure provided by schooling and decreased levels of support from families and other services.

Impact of DCD in adults

Many adults with DCD are successfully employed and have a good quality of life. Often this is the result of strategies or workarounds they have implemented to accommodate the impacts of DCD on their lives.  Some areas that have been identified as continuing to impact adolescents and adults with DCD are:

  • Motor skills (balance, agility, hand skills)
  • Executive functions (planning and organising tasks; remembering instructions; managing behaviour; focusing attention)
  • Mental health (increased rates of anxiety and depression; low self-esteem and quality of life)
  • Physical health (increased rates of obesity; lower physical fitness)
  • Driving
  • Organisation of everyday activities (managing money, planning ahead, finding belongings)
  • Independent living, employment, work performance

Diagnosing DCD in adults

There are currently no specific diagnostic criteria for adults. Most recommendations are that the same criteria for children apply, with some changes to the activities of daily living considered (e.g., self-care, vocational activities). The process for diagnosis should therefore be similar to that for children (insert link to diagnosis and therapy section).

The major difficulty obtaining a diagnosis of DCD in adulthood is the lack of standardised motor assessments. This is required to ensure movement challenges fall within a clinical range. There are currently some tests being developed to assist with identifying young adults, but work will need to continue to develop those for older adults as well.

Impact of DCD on employment

Impact on work performance is varied because job demands are so varied and no two individuals with DCD are the same. Whilst some individuals work successfully throughout adulthood, studies have highlighted areas of work that can be impacted by DCD. These include:

  • Handwriting
  • Executive function difficulties
  • Time management
  • Social skills
  • Driving (impacting type and/or location of work)

Adult interventions

There are limited intervention options available to adults. The recommendations for adult intervention at this stage remain similar to that for children, where there is a focus on task-oriented approaches to improve specific daily living skills that are important to the individual. It is important too to consider any co-occurring diagnoses and how they may be impacting motor outcomes.

It is also important to consider the impact of DCD on mental health and seek appropriate support for this in adulthood. A psychologist may be particularly useful for this, providing cognitive strategies to assist with some of the other areas highlighted above, including ways to plan and manage demands.