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Developmental coordination disorder: Clinical features and diagnosis

S Sutton Hamilton, MD
Section Editors
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Carolyn Bridgemohan, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Motor skills are typically acquired in a continuous, progressive, orderly process [1]. Normal motor function requires the coordination of neurologic, physiologic, and biologic processes including proprioception, vestibular integration, strength, balance, coordination, dexterity, visual-motor ability, and visual ability. Individual and environmental factors, such as motivation, perseverance, opportunity for practice, and encouragement, also play a role. Problems in any of these areas can result in deficits in motor skills, or clumsiness.

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is characterized by problems with motor coordination that interfere with academic performance and social integration in otherwise healthy children [2-4]. These motor problems typically present in the early school years with difficulty performing simple motor tasks (eg, running, buttoning, or using scissors) and usually persist into adolescence and adulthood [5-7].

This topic review will discuss the etiology, clinical features, evaluation and diagnosis of DCD. The management and outcome of DCD are discussed separately. (See "Developmental coordination disorder: Management and outcome".)


In this topic, we will use the term "developmental coordination disorder" (DCD) to describe problems in motor coordination that interfere with academic performance and/or socialization. DCD is the preferred term in countries that use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classification [2]. Specific developmental disorder of motor functions (SDDMF) is preferred in countries in which the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10) has legal status.

Other terms that have been used to describe this disorder include [2,8-10]:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 06, 2017.
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