Developmental coordination disorder

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) also known as dyspraxia is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood. It is also know as affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmited to the body.

Impairments in skilled motor movements per a child’s chronological age interfere with activities of daily living. A diagnosis of DCD is then reached only in the absence of other neurological impairments such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease.

Various areas of development can be affected by developmental coordination disorder and these will persist into adulthood, as DCD has no cure. Often various coping strategies are developed, and these can be enhanced through occupational therapy, psychomotor therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, or psychological training.

In addition to the physical impairments, developmental coordination disorder is associated with problems with memory, especially working memory. This typically results in difficulty remembering instructions, difficulty organizing one’s time and remembering deadlines, increased propensity to lose things or problems carrying out tasks which require remembering several steps in sequence (such as cooking).

Whilst most of the general population experience these problems to some extent, they have a much more significant impact on the lives of dyspraxic people. However, many dyspraxics have excellent long-term memories, despite poor short-term memory. Many dyspraxics benefit from working in a structured environment, as repeating the same routine minimises difficulty with time-management and allows them to commit procedures to long-term memory.

People with developmental coordination disorder sometimes have difficulty moderating the amount of sensory information that their body is constantly sending them, so as a result these dyspraxics may be prone to sensory overload and panic attacks.

Moderate to extreme difficulty doing physical tasks is experienced by some dyspraxics, and fatigue is common because so much energy is expended trying to execute physical movements correctly. Some dyspraxics suffer from hypotonia, low muscle tone, which like DCD can detrimentally affect balance.

According to CanChild in Canada, this disorder affects 5 to 6 percent of school-aged children. However, this disorder does progress towards adulthood, therefore making it a lifelong condition.

Collier first described developmental coordination disorder as “congenital maladroitness”. A. Jean Ayres referred to developmental coordination disorder as a disorder of sensory integration in 1972, while in 1975 Sasson Gubbay, MD, called it the “clumsy child syndrome”.

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