Movement Difficulties / Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

Kids just want to have fun. What to do when running around and having fun isn’t easy? If your child is one of the 5% of children with a movement difficulty, then you know that this ‘hidden’ condition affecting gross or fine motor skills can be significant. The term hidden is often used because these issues are often unrecognised. Children with motor issues often receive limited assistance. There is a range of severity of symptoms.

Your child might have issues with:
  • Running, hopping or jumping
  • Ball skills
  • Climbing
  • Balance, coordination or posture
  • Handwriting
  • Eating or dressing
  • Organisation
The medical term most commonly used to describe these movement difficulties is Developmental Coordination Disorder, or DCD. Other terms that can be used include:
  • Clumsy
  • Motor coordination problems
  • Fine motor delay
  • Developmental dyspraxia
Consequences of movement difficulties can include:
  • Frustration
  • Low self esteem
  • Avoidance of sporting activities
  • Reduced fitness
  • Social difficulties
Classification of DCD requires the following criteria:
  1. Motor skills are substantially below the level expected for the child’s age
  2. Motor skills significantly impact on activities of daily living at home and school
  3. Onset is in the early developmental period
  4. Motor skills are not better explained by an intellectual disability

Diagnosis is most commonly made by a paediatrician in conjunction with other allied health practitioners. At Bodyfit Physio, we are able to complete a motor assessment which compares your child’s performance with other children their age. We use the Movement ABC-2 which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ assessment for the motor component of DCD. The MABC-2 provides a percentile score. A score below 16% indicates that your child may have an issue with movement. A paediatrician can assist with making a diagnosis if that is appropriate. There are many interventions that can be helpful for children with movement issues, whether they have a diagnosis or not.

DCD has been thought to be a condition that children would grow out of. We now know this is not true. Though it is not considered to be a cure for the condition, many studies have shown that therapy can be very effective in assisting these children to master skills that can enable them to engage much more comfortably in activities at home and school as well as sporting / fitness activities.

Juliet uses strategies based on the CO-OP approach to work on specific task related goals. The CO-OP approach analyses the task with the child, looking at which parts are working, and which parts are not. With the child, plans are made to use strategies to enable the child to master one part of the task, before moving on to the next part. This process can take a number of weeks. 

At Bodyfit Physio we use ‘Pilates and Physio Fun’ sessions to build fundamental skills required for play and life. These can be individual or group sessions. Groups are run for 30 minutes with 2 children who we try to match to a similar age and level. We work with Pilates equipment, balance, sporting and task specific equipment.

The movement areas that we focus on include:
  • Coordination of trunk leg and arm movement
  • Strengthening the trunk legs and arms
  • Core strength
  • Endurance
  • Ball skills
  • Jumping and hopping
  • Running style and running skills
  • Posture
  • Analysis of factors interfering with fine motor skills
  • Problem solving to develop strategies to make life activities easier
  • Achieving specific goals related to: dressing; sport / activity; school

Kids love these sessions. These children can often struggle to participate in physical activity. We are able to tailor sessions to gradually add challenge so that kids can manage everything and over time, master skills, achieving their goals, all the while having fun!

We always start with a comprehensive assessment to determine your child’s needs and the best way to assist them to build their skills and have fun. Children usually benefit from several 1 on 1 sessions prior to joining a class. Physiotherapy is covered by most extras health insurance policies, with some offering no-gap treatment for children.

For more information on DCD please refer to the following link from the Australian Physiotherapy Association.


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