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DCD Overview

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting a person’s ability to learn and execute motor skills. This makes it difficult to perform common, everyday tasks, like doing up buttons, writing, catching a ball, riding a bike or driving.

Understanding DCD

  • DCD is thought to affect approximately 5% of the population. On average, that means one child in every classroom could be affected by DCD. DCD is typically more common in males (3:1).
  • The causes of DCD are not well understood. Like other neurodevelopmental conditions, the brain is thought to develop differently, impacting on a person’s ability to learn, plan and perform movement.
  • DCD does not affect an individual’s level of intelligence, but their movement difficulties might impact upon their progress in school and limit later employment opportunities.
  • DCD is a lifelong disorder, not something a child will generally outgrow.

Signs of DCD

DCD or Dyspraxia?

DCD has gone by many names, but the two labels that have dominated are DCD and dyspraxia. Our organisation uses the term DCD as this is the diagnostic label that currently appears in diagnostic manuals widely used for the diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders in Australia. Although not perfect, DCD does have a clear definition and diagnostic criteria.

In contrast, the dyspraxia does not appear in diagnostic manuals. Though it is often used interchangeably with DCD, there is no clear definition of what dyspraxia is. Some state that it is consistent with DCD, whereas others suggest it has a broader definition. This is confusing for families, educators and others who search for dyspraxia to find help or information. 

We argue that a single label is required in our campaign for awareness and advocacy and that DCD should be accepted as the more appropriate term for this purpose.

Co-occurring conditions

There is a recognised overlap between DCD and a number of other disorders. Some of these include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); (Specific) Language Impairment; Autism Spectrum Disorder; and Learning Disorders/Disabilities. There is often confusion about the relationship of DCD with other conditions, but many can be diagnosed alongside side DCD.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech, or CAS, is a speech disorder that has often been referred to as verbal dyspraxia in the past. Often children with DCD may also be diagnosed with CAS, but both can be diagnosed individually. If you suspect your child has CAS or would like to know more about it, you can find out more about it here.

Sometimes the handwriting impairments observed in individuals with DCD are referred to as Dysgraphia. However, handwriting impairments in DCD tend to be linked to the production of writing itself, as a direct result of poor motor coordination. Dysgraphia is about more than just the motor based production of written text. It encompasses difficulties producing written language. That is, an individual with dysgraphia has trouble putting thoughts and words to paper, having difficulty with letter sounds, spelling, letter direction, sentence structure and so on. You can read more about dysgraphia here.