Developmental Coordination Disorder


Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD)* impedes one’s ability in planning, coordinating and executing motor skills. A child with DCD would struggle with gross and fine motor skills, spatial and sensorial awareness, or speech. (1)

DCD can surface in different forms and severity. For instance, one child can exhibit difficulties with getting dressed, buttoning up shirt, and catching a ball while another child struggles with processing information, handwriting and speech. DCD also has a profound impact upon other areas of developments. Incompetency in daily tasks may have a negative effect on the child’s social and emotional developments. This can manifest in behavioural issues when the child enters school. (2).

Research has found that DCD can exist in isolation or co-occurring with other learning difficulties such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (3).

Often seen as a ‘hidden handicap’, DCD is not easily detected. However, if a child shows significant delay in his or her motor or speech developments over a prolonged period of time, parents may want to investigate. Often, children with DCD struggle to master self-help skills that should have been acquired across the developmental stages of childhood.

The following table provides a guideline for signs and symptoms of DCD during the early years: (2,4)

  • Messy eater, preferring to use fingers to spoon for long spell
  • Unable to ride tricycle or play ball
  • Delayed at becoming toilet trained
  • Avoid or dislikes playing with construction toys, puzzle or Lego
  • Slower in speech development.
  • Continue to be messy and fussy eater
  • Often bumps in people and things
  • Difficulty in learning to jump and skip
  • Slow to develop left / right hand dominance
  • Tends to drop objects or has difficulty holding them
  • Has trouble grasping things (like pencil) and writing or drawing
  • Has difficulty with dressing, buttoning and zipping
  • Poor writing skills
  • Sensory issues
  • Difficulty in carrying out instruction and completing activities
  • Lack of imaginative play – may not enjoy dress up or playing appropriately say in dress up corner
  • Slower response time to verbal instructions

* According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), developmental coordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is categorised under Neurodevelopmental Disorders.


  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Developmental Dyspraxia Information Page. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from
  2. Dyspraxia Foundation. (2015, March 23). Dyspraxia at a glance… Retrieved April 25, 2017, from
  3. Mountstephen, M. (2010). Meeting Special Needs: A practical guide to support children with Dyspraxia. London: Practical Pre-School Books.
  4. Patino, E. (n.d.). Understanding Dyspraxia. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from

By Cheryl Yeo and Joanne Tan
Preschool Educational Therapists
DAS Tampines Learning Centre

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This article was published in FACETS Vol 4 2017