• Robyn Thompson

Is My Child Just Clumsy or Is There More to It?

Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Can Help Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), describes developmental coordination disorder (DCD) as motor coordination below expectations for a child’s chronologic age. They may be described as “clumsy” and may have had delays in early motor milestones, such as walking and crawling (Harris, Mickelson, & Zwikcer, 2015).

DCD can also be referred to as dyspraxia and is neurologically based. DCD is a formal, defined condition, while dyspraxia is a description of symptoms often seen in DCD. These can include difficulties with movement and coordination, as well as trouble with organization, speech, memory, social and emotional skills, sensory processing and other skills.

Medical professionals who can diagnose DCD include: Clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, pediatricians, or developmental pediatricians.

The exact cause of DCD is not known. Research indicates some links to premature birth and low birth weight. Often the area of the brain, the cerebellum, is affected. Research is ongoing.

Pediatric PTs and OTs are experts in understanding the developing and growing body.

How PT or OT can Help-

-Conduct a thorough assessment of skills and abilities

-Improve strength and balance

-Improve coordination when both sides of the body are working at the same time

-Address poor visual perceptual or ocular motor skills that may contribute to challenges

-Improve body awareness

-Improve skills through childhood occupations including task-oriented and task-specific learning

-Address poor sensory processing skills

-Help establish routines for home, school and self-care

Why get Help?-

Pediatric therapists can work with you and your child to help prevent other complications that can be seen with DCD. This can include:

-Delayed learning of movement skills

-Poor posture

-Walking with feet turned in or out

-Low self-esteem caused by not being able to participate or keep up with peers

-Inactivity that can contribute to obesity, heart disease or diabetes

We can Help-

Our therapists at Roots are highly skilled and experienced.

We create opportunities for skill development in positive, fun, effective and evidence-based ways.

Check out our programs at

References and Resources:,may%20develop%20low%20self%2Desteem

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