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Diagnosis

Talk to a GP, health visitor or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) if you think your child has developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD).

They may refer your child to another healthcare professional who can do an assessment.

This could be:

Other doctors who may be involved in this process include a neurodevelopmental paediatrician or a paediatric neurologist.

These are paediatricians who also specialise in the development of the central nervous system, which includes the brain, nerves and spinal cord.

A neurodevelopmental paediatrician may work at a child development centre or local health clinics.

Occasionally, a neurologist is needed to help rule out other conditions that affect the brain and nervous system (neurological conditions), which may be causing your child's symptoms.

It's important to get a correct diagnosis so you can develop a better understanding of your child's problems and appropriate support can be offered.

Getting a diagnosis can also help reduce the stress experienced by both parents and children with DCD.

Assessment

The diagnosis of DCD is usually made by a paediatrician, often in collaboration with an occupational therapist.

Generally, a paediatrician is involved in diagnosis and an occupational therapist is involved in both diagnosis and treatment.

For a diagnosis to be made, it's essential for the child to have what is called a norm-referenced assessment of their motor skills. This may be done by an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or paediatrician.

Children with suspected DCD are usually assessed using a method called the Motor ABC, which involves tests of:

Your child's performance in the assessment is scored and compared with the normal range of scores for a child of their age.

There also needs to be evidence that the child's mental ability is within the normal range for their age.

Sometimes your child may also have an assessment of their mental ability by a psychologist, or if they're very young, by a paediatrician.

The healthcare professional doing the assessment will take your child's medical history into account. This includes any problems that may have happend during their birth and any delays reaching developmental milestones.

Your family medical history, such as whether any family members have been diagnosed with DCD, will also be considered.

Once the assessment process is complete, the healthcare professionals involved will produce a report on your child's condition.

Diagnostic criteria

For a diagnosis of DCD to be made, your child will usually need to meet all of the following criteria:

DCD should only be diagnosed in children with a general learning disability if their physical co-ordination is significantly more impaired than their mental abilities.

Although DCD may be suspected in the pre-school years, it's not usually possible to make a definite diagnosis before a child is aged 4 or 5.