Understanding Balance in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder

Understanding Balance in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder

What is DCD and how does it affect an individual’s balance during an obstacle crossing task.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a movement disorder that affects motor control and coordination (Gentle, Barnett, & Wilmut, 2016). Children with DCD are characterized by clumsiness, awkward walking patterns, and a tendency to bump into objects. DCD affects 5-6% of all school-aged children, with fine and gross motor skill difficulties persisting into adolescence and adulthood (CanChild, 2017). Current research suggests DCD may be due to delays in the child’s ability to adapt to changes in his or her environment. These delays may be caused by difficulty integrating information from the senses (i.e., multi-sensory integration) resulting in poor balance.

Understanding Balance in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder

Moving around obstacles in the environment is a complicated task that requires motor planning. This involves using their visual, somatosensory (e.g., touch), and vestibular system (e.g., balance and orientation) in order to move without bumping into things. Children with DCD tend to spend more time with both feet on the ground than children without DCD (Wilmut, Du, & Barnett, 2016). This means that individuals with DCD have difficulty balancing and try to compensate by keeping both feet on the ground. Children with DCD also have been found to walk slower with shorter, wider steps, and incline their heads more toward the ground, especially on uneven ground (Gentle et al., 2016). By understanding how children with DCD move around obstacles compared to their typically developing peers (8-12 years old) helps us to understand the disorder. The goal of Victoria’s study is to find out whether DCD is due to sensory integration difficulties that result in extra processing time to complete a task. Victoria’s research will be useful in physiotherapy intervention studies to determine the best types of treatment at an early age.

Understanding Balance in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder

Little is known about DCD because it is a relatively new diagnosed disorder. It is believed that 5-6% of all school-aged children have DCD; however, many are undiagnosed. The purpose of Victoria’s study is to determine whether children with DCD (8-12 years old) have difficulty with sensory integration during an obstacle crossing task as compared to their peers.

If you know someone with a child with DCD who would be interested in participating in the study, please email Victoria at rapo4570@mylaurier.ca or her supervisor Dr. Cinelli at mcinelli@wlu.ca.


CanChild (2017). Developmental Coordination Disorder. Retrieved on September 15, 2017 from https://canchild.ca/en/diagnoses/developmental-coordination-disorder

Gentle, J., Barnett, A.L., & Wilmut, K. (2016). Adaptations to walking on uneven terrain for individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder. Human Movement Science, 49, 346-353. DOI: 10.1016/j.humov.2016.08.010

Wilmut, K., Du, W., & Barnett, A.L. (2016). Gait Patterns in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Experimental Brain Research, 234, 1747-1755. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-016-4592-x