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Physical Characteristics

  • The child may be awkward in his/her movements. He/she may bump into, spill, or knock things over.
  • The child may experience difficulty with gross motor skills (whole body), fine motor skills (using hands), or both.
  • The child may be delayed in developing certain motor skills such as riding a tricycle/bicycle, catching a ball, jumping rope, doing up buttons, and tying shoelaces.
  • The child may show a discrepancy between his/her motor abilities and his/her abilities in other areas. For example, intellectual and language skills may be quite strong while motor skills are delayed.
  • The child may have difficulty learning new motor skills. Once learned, certain motor skills may be performed quite well while others may continue to be performed poorly.
  • The child may have more difficulty with activities that require constant changes in his/her body position or when he/she must adapt to changes in the environment (e.g., following movements in P.E, playing team sports)
  • The child may have difficulty with activities that require the coordinated use of both sides of the body (e.g., cutting with scissors, using cutlery, performing star jumps) and may be late to develop a hand dominance.
  • The child may exhibit poor postural control and poor balance particularly in activities that require balance (e.g. stair climbing, standing while dressing).
  • The child may have difficulty with printing or handwriting. This skill involves continually interpreting feedback about the movements of the hand while planning new movements, and is a very difficult task for most children with DCD.
  • he child may also exhibit sensory processing issues.

Emotional/Behavioural Characteristics

  • The child may show a lack of interest in, or avoid, particular activities, especially those that require a physical response. For a child with DCD, performing motor skills requires significant effort. Fatigue and repeated failure may cause the child to avoid participating in motor tasks.
  • The child may demonstrate a low frustration tolerance, decreased self-esteem, and a lack of motivation due to difficulties coping with activities that are required in all aspects of his/her life.
  • The child may avoid playing with peers  on the playground as they struggle to do some of the activities to the same level. Some children will seek out younger children to play with while others will play on their own. This may be due to decreased self-confidence or avoidance of physical activities.
  • The child may seem dissatisfied with his/her performance (e.g., erases written work, complains of performance in motor activities, shows frustration with work product).
  • The child may be resistant to changes in his/her routine or in his/her environment. If the child has to expend a lot of effort to plan a task, then even a small change in how it is to be performed may present a significant problem for the child.

Other Characteristics

  • The child may have difficulty balancing the need for speed with the need for accuracy. For example, handwriting may be very neat but extremely slow.
  • The child may have difficulty with academic subjects such as mathematics, spelling, or written language which require handwriting to be accurate and organised on the page.
  • The child may have difficulty completing work within an expected time frame. Since tasks require much more effort, children may be more willing to be distracted and may become frustrated with a task that should be straightforward.
  • The child may have general difficulties organising his/her desk, locker, homework, or even the space on a page.
  • The child may present with sensory processing difficulties which means they find it difficult to respond to sensory information and will therefore either avoid or seek out particular sensory experiences

Last updated 10 September 2020

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