Written by: Timothy Spadzinski, OT Student Intern

Edited by: Lizette Alexander, OT Reg. (Ont) with appreciation

As adults, we may have moments where we feel a little bit clumsy, whether that be having a cup slip from your hand and onto the floor or stumbling over a step as you walk up the stairs. Others may find it difficult to coordinate movements to throw or kick a ball. Although we may not think twice about these types of events, for approximately 5-6% of school-aged children, challenges in coordination come as an everyday reality impacting multiple areas of their daily lives (CanChild, n.d.). In this week’s blog, we take a look at Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and how children with DCD explore their actions.

What Is DCD?

In short, DCD is a diagnosis that is used to explain a child’s motor coordination difficulties that do not have a specific cause or underlying neurological condition. These difficulties are often related to delays in motor skill development that continue into adulthood. Although there is no cure for DCD, strategies can be learned to perform common, everyday tasks, or new activities they are introduced to (CanChild, n.d.).   

DCD is not a learning disorder, however, it does create difficulties for a child when doing activities in the classroom (i.e., writing, organizing their workspace, participating in class activities) and in the home (i.e., self-care routines, sitting still, putting meals together) (CanChild, n.d.; Tamplain, n.d.).



 Research has suggested that children with DCD may have difficulties in:

  1. Sensory Processing: identifying and integrating sensory information (i.e., visual, touch, balance, and body positioning) to help with movement
  2. Motor Planning: preparing the right movements in the correct order to complete a task in a specific context
  3. Motor Learning: adapting to an activity with many steps or a changing environment

(Allen & Casey, 2017; CanChild, n.d.)

Key Characteristics of DCD

Physical Characteristics

·       Fine and gross motor difficulties

·       Difficulty learning new motor skills

·       Difficulty with bilateral coordination and balance

·       Appearing “clumsy” or “awkward”

Behavioural Characteristics (indirect)

·       Disinterest in or avoidance of activities difficult for the child

·       Frustration and lowered self-esteem

(Allen & Casey, 2017; CanChild, n.d.; Tamplain, n.d.)


These characteristics may look different from child to child, and may become more noticeable at different ages (i.e., preschool, kindergarten to grade 2, grades 3 to 7, and into “tween and teen” years), and may come up in a few specific tasks or potentially a wide range of activities.

(CanChild, n.d.; Tamplain, n.d.)


NOTE: If you have concerns about your child’s coordination and ability to participate in motor activities, please speak to your pediatrician. You may be referred to an Occupational Therapist (OT) for a motor evaluation to support the pediatrician’s assessment.


How TCTC Can Help:

TCTC’s motor skills evaluations use the Movement ABC 2 assessment tool, which is considered the gold standard tool for assessing a child’s motor abilities related to DCD. As mentioned, the info from this evaluation would be provided to your pediatrician for further assessment and would also help identify potential areas where Occupational Therapy services could be provided. For children with motor coordination difficulties, please contact our OTs for information on fun therapeutic programing to support skill development!


Strategies for At Home

  1. Teach a new activity at home first. This may give your child a safe opportunity to learn helping strategies and gain confidence in the skills needed before joining a group.
  2. Continued support. Reminding your child that you will be there if they need help, will give them added comfort when trying new things.
  3. Reinforce your child’s strengths. Encouraging your child in things they are strong at will help motivate them to try new things that may be more difficult.
  4. Encourage motivating play! Find physical activities that your child enjoys, promoting the health benefits of exercise, the social benefits of play, and their self-esteem.
  5. Be an active team member! Work with the health professionals to learn additional strategies that can be introduced and practice at home.

(CanChild, n.d.; Tamplain, n.d.)


Please contact us if you would like to learn more about DCD and how TCTC can help you and your child learn new strategies to help them explore their world!


Allen, S. & Casey, J. (2017). Developmental coordination disorders and sensory processing and integration: Incidence, associations and co-morbidities. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 80(9), 549–557. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0308022617709183

CanChild (n.d.). Developmental coordination disorder. Retrieved from https://canchild.ca/en/diagnoses/developmental-coordination-disorder

Tamplain, P. (n.d.). Understanding developmental coordination disorder. Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/dyspraxia/understanding-developmental-coordination-disorder-dcd