Toward an understanding of developmental coordination disorder: terminological and diagnostic issues

Neural Plast. 2003;10(1-2):1-13. doi: 10.1155/NP.2003.1.


Awareness of children who experience unexpected difficulty in the acquisition of motor skills has increased dramatically over the last twenty years. Although the positing of a distinct syndrome has proven seminal in provoking further questions, several basic terminological problems remain unresolved. In this paper, we conduct a component analysis of the three, principal competing labels for this disorder, two of them being elements derived from systematic diagnostic frameworks. Our preference for the DSM IV term Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is stated and justified. Problems in diagnosis are discussed, especially in relation to the etiology-dominated medical model. We argue that an attempt should be made to identify (pathological) positive signs that can reliably be detected rather than relying entirely on normative evidence of a lack of skills exhibited by other children of the same age. The high degree of overlap between DCD and other developmental disorders suggests that DCD might not constitute a distinct syndrome. In this context, we emphasize the need to determine whether incoordination takes a different form when it occurs alone or whether it is combined with general developmental delay or with other specific disorders in children of normal intelligence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Developmental Disabilities* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Motor Skills Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Motor Skills Disorders / epidemiology
  • Motor Skills Disorders / etiology
  • Terminology as Topic*