Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

October 24, 2022

Kids and Coordination

By: Scott Harvey, MPT

Many families report that their child is “a little clumsy.” For some families, it can be difficult to recognize if this is simply part of development and adjusting to a growing body, or a coordination impairment that needs to be explored further.

Coordination is the ability of multiple body parts to work together at the same time in a controlled way to complete a motor task. An example of a higher-level coordination activity is doing jumping jacks.

If a child has poor coordination, a possible explanation is Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). DCD is an impairment in the development of motor coordination which significantly interferes with academic achievement and activities of daily living. About 5% of children aged 5-11 have DCD.

Children with DCD have problems learning new motor skills and activities and coordinating the upper and lower limbs of the body. To efficiently move through the environment and learn new skills, the body relies on sensory systems: visual, tactile (touch), vestibular (sense of balance), and proprioceptive (how muscles perceive actions). If these systems are not properly integrated, a child appears clumsy.

Can you describe your child in any of these ways?

  • Clumsy or awkward with their movements. They may bump into, spill, or knock things over.
  • Awkward or has difficulty with walking or running.
  • Difficulty playing, participating or insecurities with sports or games.
  • Difficulty coordinating both sides of the body (e.g., cutting paper with scissors, swinging a bat, doing jumping jacks).
  • Difficulty with handwriting.
  • Delayed in developing certain motor skills such as riding a tricycle/bicycle, throwing a ball, jumping rope, doing up buttons, and tying shoelaces.

If your child exhibits any of the above difficulties with their movements, our pediatric occupational and physical therapists are here to help! Whether or not the explanation is DCD, a therapist will help your child learn ways to improve their motor planning abilities and become more successful with motor learning and performance.

The most effective treatment is a combination of specific coordination exercises, as well as working on functional skills. Through play and exploration of new motor activities, a therapist will help your child in the affected area(s) of impaired coordination, so they can better participate in age-appropriate activities with their peers.


Resources and References   (Screening tool questionnaire)