The unmet clinical needs of children with developmental coordination disorder

Melissa K. Licari, Gail A. Alvares, Charmaine Bernie, Catherine Elliott, Kiah L. Evans, Sarah McIntyre, Sarah V. Pillar, Jess E. Reynolds, Siobhan L. Reid, Alicia J. Spittle, Andrew J.O. Whitehouse, Jill G. Zwicker, Jacqueline Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The aim of this study was to understand the challenges experienced by families obtaining a diagnosis and therapy for developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Methods: Parents of 435 children aged 4–18 years with persistent motor difficulties consistent with a diagnosis of DCD completed an online survey. Diagnostic timeline and diagnostic label/s received were examined, along with therapies accessed. Results: There was inconsistent diagnostic terminology (nine separate terms) with more children diagnosed with dyspraxia (64.7%) than DCD (48.8%). Even though most parents (87.0%) reported that receiving a diagnosis was helpful, children did not receive a diagnosis until years after seeking help (mean 2.8 ± 2.3 years). Many children were diagnosed with at least one co-occurring neurodevelopmental, language or learning disorder (70.0%). Almost all families had accessed therapy for their child’s movement difficulties (93.9%), but more than half did not have access to funding to support therapy costs (57.8%) and reported that the costs caused financial strain (52.6%). Two out of every three families reported that they did not feel the current level of therapy was sufficient. Conclusions: This critical advocacy research highlights inconsistent and incorrect terminology and the challenges families experience in obtaining a diagnosis and adequate access to therapy for their child’s movement difficulties. Impact: This is the first comprehensive study to examine the challenges families experience gaining a diagnosis and therapy for their child with DCD.Families regularly experienced prolonged diagnosis; 45% waited between 2 and 4 years.There is no clear diagnostic pathway, with children more likely to be diagnosed with dyspraxia than the correct clinical diagnosis of DCD.More extensive implementation of the diagnostic guidelines into clinical practice is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-831
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number4
Early online date27 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


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