Motor Skill Interventions in Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Oct;99(10):2076-2099. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2017.12.009. Epub 2018 Jan 9.


Objectives: To determine the characteristics and effectiveness of motor skill interventions in children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and to identify potential moderators of training effects using meta-analysis.

Data sources: A search was conducted in 6 databases (CINAHL Plus, Cochrane Library, Embase, ERIC, PsycINFO, and PubMed) for articles published between 1995 and August 2017 using search items which were grouped into 3 components (motor skill interventions, DCD, and age group of interest).

Study selection: Studies were included if they recruited children 3 to 17 years of age with DCD, reported performance of motor-related skills as outcomes, were published in peer-reviewed journals, and were written in English. Qualitative synthesis was conducted for all included studies. Quantitative synthesis (meta-analysis) was only conducted for studies using a (quasi) randomized controlled trial design.

Data extraction: Methodology, participant characteristics, intervention components, outcomes, and statistically significant training effects of each included study were extracted.

Data synthesis: Sixty-six studies met the inclusion criteria with 18 of the studies eligible for meta-analysis. Motor performance and cognitive, emotional, and other psychological factors were the most common outcomes. Other 3 outcome categories included perceptions and/or satisfaction regarding the children's improvement from significant others, physical fitness, and physical activity and participation. Immediate and moderate training effects were found for motor performance (Hedges g=.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], .31-.94; P<.001) and cognitive, emotional, and other psychological factors (Hedges g=0.65; 95% CI, 0.25-1.04; P=.001). Additionally, dose (minutes in total) and frequency of the intervention were significant moderators of training effect on motor performance.

Conclusions: Motor skill interventions are effective in improving motor competence and performance on cognitive, emotional, and other psychological aspects in children with DCD in the short term. These effects are more robust in interventions using a large training dose and a practicing schedule of high frequency.

Keywords: Exercise; Meta-analysis; Motor skills disorders; Rehabilitation; Retention.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Motor Skills*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Treatment Outcome