DCD is generally considered to mean an impairment of, or difficulties with, the organisation, planning and execution of physical movement with a developmental rather than acquired origin. Carrying out co-ordinated movements is a complex process that involves many different nerves and parts of the brain. It is not usually clear why co-ordination doesn’t develop as well as other abilities in children with DCD.There is little evidence to suggested that DCD and dyspraxia are separate conditions and therefore such by thought of as the same. The symptoms can appear similar to some other neurological conditions however DCD is when these symptoms are present without a neurological based diagnosis such as Cerebral Palsy. As well as physical difficulties DCD is also associated with problems with working memory. Symptoms include:

  • Delayed developmental milestones such as walking, crawling, self-feeding

  • Stiff or floppy muscles

  • Poor coordination

  • Difficulties with physical activities

  • Difficulties with fine motor skills

  • Difficulty in keeping still

  • May appear clumsy

  • Reduced concentration

  • Problems with following instructions

  • Poor organisation

  • Unorthodox pen grip

  • Immature drawings


The difficulties that children experience caused by DCD will vary across a spectrum, these practical difficulties can include:

  • PE – such as kicking a ball, throwing, catching, running, riding a bike

  • Dressing – shoe laces, buttons, zips

  • Handwriting

  • Fatigue – tiring quickly

  • Playing – stacking bricks, building,

  • Frustration

  • Drawing and colouring

  • Copying information from the board or from books

  • Learning new skills

  • Self-esteem

  • Walking in to objects

DCD is a condition that will last a lifetime and difficulties can continue in to adulthood with problems extending to DIY, driving a vehicle and employment.


Although DCD is a lifelong condition the functional difficulties can be improved through occupational therapy. It is recommended that a referral to occupational therapy is made as early as possible as early intervention is more likely to yield better outcomes which are sustained longer.

We at Manchester Occupational Therapy Services would work with the individual and their family to assess for any functional difficulties and design a specific treatment plan which would include improving strength and dexterity. The occupational therapist will work with families and schools to implement an effective treatment plan.

Manchester Occupational Therapy Services can assess handwriting and make recommendations relating to pen grips, exercises, sensory integration, and IT.

Research suggests that occupational therapy is an effective treatment method for DCD, the study shows that parents value occupational therapy intervention which enabled their child to complete their chosen motor skill in the community and that promotes social inclusion. The same study showed that children themselves saw benefits from occupational therapy intervention when completing self care and productivity activities independently (Morgan, 2012).

Morgan, R., & Long, T. (2012). The effectiveness of occupational therapy intervention for children with developmental coordination disorder: review of the qualitative literature. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75 (1) , pp. 10-18.

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