Unfortunately for many children, DCD does not act alone: it commonly presents alongside other developmental disorders such as dyslexia, specific language impairment and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with DCD have been found to be generally slower than their peers to hit early movement milestones such as crawling and walking.
Though its symptoms may appear to be mostly physical, new research based on teacher reports has found that those with DCD actually have much higher levels of emotional distress than their peers and are frequently anxious and downhearted.
In addition, the study from Goldsmiths University found that children aged between seven and ten with DCD have lower social skills than others of the same age. Previous studies have identified a link between poorer recognition of facial emotions and DCD, which may contribute to children with the condition having these social problems.
Growing up with DCD
DCD is a lifelong disorder that cannot be explained by a general medical condition; there is no definitive answer as to what causes it at present. However, it is known that DCD is not due to brain damage, like some learning difficulties.
Although children presenting with the symptoms of DCD have long been recognised, formal diagnosis has only become prevalent recently – compared to some other conditions such as dyslexia – as awareness of it grows. This may be partly because movement difficulties were not previously recognised in themselves as needing attention.
For a long time it was assumed that children would “grow out of” their movement difficulties. But we now have evidence that in many children the motor difficulties persist into adulthood and are commonly associated with a range of socio-emotional problems later on.
Adults with DCD still bump into objects and continue to struggle with handwriting. They may also have trouble with timekeeping and planning ahead, meaning they may be frequently late to work and social events. Self-care is also a problem, but rather than fastening clothes it turns into struggling to keep a home tidy. Tasks such as preparing a meal from scratch and ironing clothes can also be troublesome. DCD adults can also have issues with learning a new skill that requires speed and accuracy – so it can be difficult for them to learn to drive a car.