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Development Coordination Disorder

About 6-8 % of children appear to be developing in the usual way yet have difficulties with coordination and with learning new skills which affects their function and participation at home, at school and in the playground. Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is the internationally accepted name for this condition.

Recent research has shown that the underlying reason for the movement difficulties children with DCD experience is related to atypical brain development that affects the way in which the brain forms connections ( internal models) between different parts of the brain when learning a new skill. This in turn impacts on the child's ability to use information from the senses to plan, adapt and control their movements.

DCD affects fine and gross motor abilities, balance and posture, basic motor patterns (walking, running, jumping) and in particular skilled action that require practice, planning, attention and working memory (ball skills, drawing and handwriting, sport skills)

What is Dyspraxia?

Children with coordination difficulties are sometimes given a diagnosis of dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a loose "diagnosis" that lumps coordination difficulties with a whole range of attention, emotional self-regulation, anxiety, short term and working memory problems.

Unlike DCD, there are no formal criteria for a diagnosis of dyspraxia and this makes it very confusing because different people use the term dyspraxia in different ways. It is also the reason why a diagnosis of dyspraxia is not recognized by many pediatricians and school authorities.

Including all these different developmental difficulties into one diagnosis has serious drawbacks because it prevents clear thinking about the different factors contributing the everyday difficulties the child is experiencing. The better option is to separately identify the motor learning difficulty (DCD) as well as the associated developmental difficulties such as anxiety disorder, attention difficulties, developmental language disorder, poor working memory and autism. This provides a better insight into the range of difficulties the child has as well as access to information about the different conditions.

Reading and Spelling

Children with dyspraxia may have difficulties with reading and spelling. Limited concentration and poor listening skills, and literal use of language may have an effect on reading and spelling ability. A child may read well, but not understand some of the concepts in the language. The child may also be reluctant to read aloud because of articulation difficulties or because they lack self-confidence. Exercises may be beneficial for children with reading and spelling difficulties. 

Computers can also help with reading and spelling: Wordshark 5 is a widely used program, available from the Dyspraxia Foundation.

Research has shown that children with developmental verbal dyspraxia whose speech difficulties persist beyond the age of 5 & 6 years are at risk of having literacy difficulties. The risk is increased if there is a family history of speech, language or specific learning difficulties.

The child with developmental verbal dyspraxia has an impaired speech processing system, which affects their ability to make sound ñ letter links and to carry out phonological awareness tasks (e.g. segmenting, blending, rhyming etc) essential for literacy acquisition. Spelling is usually more affected than reading.

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