New book from Telethon Kids researchers gives voice to children living with DCD
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a condition affecting one in twenty Australian children, influencing their ability to learn and perform basic motor skills required for everyday activities such as dressing, writing, jumping and running.
Despite its prevalence, children with the disorder are often assumed to be clumsy or lazy, and as a result, can suffer low self-esteem or anxiety.
The disorder is relatively unknown in the education community, and two researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute are part of a team who have developed a new book featuring the voices of children with DCD, in the hopes it will make more people aware of a condition which affects at least one child in every Australian classroom.
One child who’s story became part of the book spiralled into significant anxiety and distress as he struggled to fit in with peers due to problems including trouble throwing balls and balancing, trouble learning to write, and toileting accidents – the result of being unable to undo his buttons in time.
By the age of ten, he was having panic attacks almost every day and had stopped writing altogether after being teased by another child’s parent. By 11 – last year – he was thinking about self-harm and suicide.
The stories of several children are brought to life in a new book compiled by Telethon Kids Institute researcher Dr Melissa Licari and illustrated by fellow Telethon Kids researcher Sarah Pillar.
Dr Licari was inspired by the stories of children with DCD with whom she had worked over the past 17 years. The book, Sometimes I Find it Hard to Move my Body, describes from the children’s perspective the daily challenges they face as a result of their DCD.
“In my years of working with children with DCD I’ve heard so many stories of failure, bullying and exclusion, and children struggling to keep up,” Dr Licari said.
Despite first appearing in diagnostic manuals back in 1994 and being one of the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders to affect children, DCD remains relatively unrecognised.
- Developmental coordination disorder is estimated to affect five per cent of school-aged children in Australia
- The disorder is characterised by persistent difficulty acquiring and executing movement skills, significantly hampering everyday activities
- While DCD can occur in isolation, it is common in children with autism and ADHD and children born preterm
- DCD has previously been known by a variety of terms including dyspraxia.
“DCD is poorly resourced because there isn’t enough evidence to demonstrate the impact it has on children and their families,” Dr Licari noted.
“Our research will continue to build the evidence base in this area, but in the meantime this book will help to create some visibility for this disorder. It’s a book we hope will help families with DCD, but also to help others understand DCD.”
The book’s publication marks the start of a national advocacy campaign, in which Dr Licari will join forces with DCD Australia – a support and advocacy organisation founded in 2016 – to raise awareness and advocate for more support for children and families affected by DCD.
Dr Licari said it is important that children displaying ‘persistent’ movement difficulties at any age be identified and supported.
“Even though children with movement differences like DCD may not outgrow their movement difficulties, the impact can be reduced if children receive the support needed as early as possible – this will provide them with the best chance of minimising the long-term effects.”
“Educators also play a critical role in the educational journey for children with movement difficulties, by ensuring the tasks and learning environment are suitable for or adapted to their needs.” she added.