Sam says parents of children with DCD face many challenges.
“DCD is not covered by funding. Psychological needs are supported by Medicare of a maximum of 10 appointments per year, and there is often an out-of-pocket expense for these 10 appointments depending on the psychologist and how much they charge.
“Also, the chronic management plan only supports a 12-month period with six visits to a nominated allied health professional through Medicare. This does not even come close to the support needed for a child with DCD.
“So, the pressure to provide the continual support needed is a hard financial burden, or when you need to stop the sessions due to the lack of money flow, it carries a huge amount of guilt that you can’t offer the support needed to your child. “
Sam says having a child with DCD brings many amazing and rewarding milestones although the emotional needs on the family can be taxing at times.
She says children with DCD can have trouble maintaining organisation at home and school.
“A child with DCD needs constant support for daily tasks that others take for granted such as writing at school, buttons, shoe laces, personal hygiene, using utensils and so much more.
“They are sensitive and have empathy beyond their years and this leads to emotional breakdowns at home and school.
“They are affected by games at lunch that they play with friends such as tiggy and ball games, they are slower and lack the coordination of their peers, which leaves them feeling left out. They then bring home the emotional impact of their day.”
Dr Williams says in diagnosing DCD, a developmental history should be taken and the child’s motor skills should be assessed using a test that allows a health professional to compare their performance to other children their age.
A paediatric occupational therapist is a good professional to start with, but some are more familiar with DCD than others. Some child neuropsychologists, physiotherapists and paediatricians may also have the background to assess this.
“While an occupational therapist is a great choice for assessing motor skills, it is wise to engage in a team-based approach – for example, a paediatrician can assist in ensuring the clumsiness is not due to another cause that would rule out DCD (e.g. cerebral palsy) and a neuropsychologist can assess for other disorders that often appear alongside DCD, like ADHD,” Dr Williams says.
There is however no known cause for DCD.
“There is increasing evidence that the brains of children with DCD may have developed or function in a different way to individuals without DCD,” Dr Williams says.
“There is also an increasing interest in determining the role of genetics in the disorder. Certain risk factors, such as premature birth, can mean a child is at greater risk of developing DCD.”
Dr Williams says it’s important that parents seek therapy for their children as the majority of children do not outgrow it and therapy is an important tool in developing strategies and skills to help them.
“Children with DCD are at risk of falling into a cycle of avoidance, which reduces their opportunity to practice, resulting in them falling further behind, and further avoiding tasks. Early positive experiences are critical in reducing this,” she says.
“The most effective types of therapy for DCD are skill specific. This means that a therapist will most likely determine, in conjunction with you and your child, which skills are currently the most crucial for your child to improve and will develop a program of therapy from there.
“Left untreated, DCD can have a considerable impact on a child. Children with DCD are often noticed by their peers as being slower or less skilled and quickly become the last one picked for sports and in play.
“Many studies have shown that children with DCD have lower self-esteem, are more anxious, and feel that they are less socially accepted.
“Their avoidance of tasks also often leaves them labelled as lazy or less intelligent, which further impacts their psychological health.
“Their avoidance of physical activity can also have a significant impact on their physical health, with a large body of studies now demonstrating that those in late childhood and early adolescence with DCD are much less aerobically fit, are weaker and more likely to develop obesity in the future.”