Millions of children suffer from a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Often referred to as clumsy child syndrome, it’s a serious and chronic neurological disorder that occurs when the brain is unable to relay messages to the body. The condition affects multiple areas of development and coordination. In fact, it can continue into adulthood.
Children afflicted with DCD may trip over their own feet and drop things. They may walk with an unsteady gait and run into other children unintentionally. Children with DCD can be slow to crawl, stand and walk and have difficulty swallowing during their first year. Gross and fine motor skills are affected. The condition can co-exist with learning and communication disorders, along with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Children with DCD are forced to live with the physical effects of this condition. They may be unable to remember simple things. Faced with large amounts of sensory stimulation, they can become overwhelmed easily and prone to panic attacks. Approximately 5 percent of children are affected and the condition is more prevalent in boys than girls. Such children typically suffer from feelings of inadequacy and have low self-esteem.
DCD significantly impacts a child’s ability to learn and perform everyday activities that others may take for granted. Many parents fail to seek intervention in the belief that the child “will grow out of it”. Most youngsters are diagnosed between the ages of 6 and 12. Early diagnostic assessments are essential, enabling children to begin receiving the necessary assistance they need.
Children with DCD often have hypermobile joints, which makes it difficult for them to control movement. Physical therapy techniques and interventions help improve movement, muscle control and stability. They include:
Manual Manipulation – Therapy helps patients concentrate and gain awareness of the muscles used for specific movements.
Aquatic Therapy – Water provides a supportive medium in which patients can improve motor skills. It relieves weight on muscles and joints, making it easier to perform specific movements.
Occupational Therapy – In conjunction with physical therapy, this helps to modify the environment and the manner in which day to day tasks are completed.
Progressive strengthening – This helps individuals build muscle strength, coordination and balance. Depending upon the patient, therapists may employ specialized equipment to perform specific movements and increase body awareness.
Home Exercise Programs – Therapists can develop an individualized exercise program to enable a patient to exercise at home, in between office visits. The objective is to help the patient build confidence, self-esteem and promotes physical activity.
Movement Adaptations – Physical therapists encourage movement adaptations that enable children with DCD learn and perform tasks that other children typically do, such as riding a bike. Therapists work with parents and schools to make appropriate accommodations for an optimal learning experience.
Children with DCD face severe challenges with simple things. This affects their quality of life. Physical therapy will improve gross and fine motors skills and movement. Being able to move properly and appropriately is essential for safety, freedom and self-sufficiency.
Physical therapist use a variety of techniques and strategies to help children and adults with DCD. We can help with comprehensive assessments, multiple therapeutic methods and adaptations. We work with physicians, families and other care providers to improve quality of life for children and adults of all ages.
If you know of a child (or adult) with any kind of movement disorder, ask them to reach out to us. We will provide you (and them) with the information and education needed to make informed decisions. We can help your child achieve freedom, independence and confidence. Together, we can build a better world for our children.
Dr. Dan Skulavik is the physical therapist at Advanced Physical Therapy in the Food Lion Shopping Center.