Developmental coordination disorder

Symptoms of dyspraxia


Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) can cause a wide range of problems. Some of these may be noticeable at an early age, while others may only become more obvious as your child gets older.

Problems in infants

Delays in reaching normal developmental milestones can be an early sign of DCD in young children. For example, your child may take slightly longer than expected to:

  • roll over
  • sit
  • crawl
  • walk

You may also notice that your child appears unusually stiff (hypertonia) or floppy (hypotonia), has difficulty playing with toys that involve good co-ordination (such as stacking bricks), and they may have some difficulties learning to eat with cutlery.

Problems in older children

As your child gets older, they may develop more noticeable physical difficulties in addition to a number of other problems.

Movement and co-ordination problems

Problems with movement and co-ordination are the main symptoms of DCD and children may have difficulties:

  • with playground activities such as hopping, jumping, running, and catching or kicking a ball – they often avoid joining in because of their lack of co-ordination and may find PE (physical education) difficult
  • walking up and down stairs
  • writing, drawing and using scissors – their handwriting and drawings may appear scribbled and more childish than other children their age
  • getting dressed, doing up buttons and tying shoelaces
  • keeping still – they may swing or move their arms and legs a lot and find it hard to sit still

A child with DCD may appear awkward and clumsy as they may bump into objects, drop things and fall over a lot – although this in itself is not necessarily a sign of DCD, as many children who appear clumsy actually have all the normal motor (movement) skills for their age.

Some children with DCD may also become less fit than other children as their poor performance in sport may result in them being reluctant to exercise.

Additional problems

As well as difficulties related to movement and co-ordination, children with DCD can also have a range of other problems, such as:

  • difficulty concentrating – they may have a poor attention span and find it difficult to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes
  • difficulty following instructions and copying down information – they may do better at school in a one-to-one situation than in a group, as they are able to be guided through work
  • being poor at organising themselves and getting things done
  • not automatically picking up new skills and needing encouragement and repetition to help them learn
  • difficulties making friends – they may avoid taking part in team games and may be bullied for being ‘different’ or clumsy
  • behaviour problems – often stemming from a child’s frustration with their symptoms
  • low-self esteem

However, although the child with DCD may have poor co-ordination and some of these additional problems, not all their abilities will be affected. For example, the child's abilities to think, talk and understand are not usually behind what is expected at his or her age. 

Related conditions

Children with DCD may also have other conditions, such as:

Some children with DCD have difficulty coordinating the movements required to produce clear speech.

Getting help

Talk to your GP or health visitor – or a nurse, doctor or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child's school – if you have any concerns about your child's health or development.

If necessary, they can refer your child to a community paediatrician, who will try to identify any developmental problems and arrange for an assessment of the child's motor skills if appropriate.

Read more about diagnosing DCD in children.