Increasing awareness and improving outcomes of children with developmental coordination disorder in British Columbia

Principal Investigator: 
University of British Columbia
Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy
Award Type: 

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is one of the most common conditions in children, affecting five to six percent of the school-age population. In British Columbia, this is about 40,000 children, or one-two children in every classroom. Children who were born prematurely are especially likely to have DCD; nearly half will develop it. Children with DCD find it hard to learn motor skills and perform everyday activities, such as getting dressed, tying shoelaces, using a fork and knife, printing, riding a bicycle, or playing sports. They often feel lonely, depressed or anxious, and may have low self-esteem and problems with peers. It was once believed that children would outgrow DCD, but long-term studies have now confirmed that functional difficulties can persist into adulthood. Despite being a common condition, DCD is under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and under-treated.

The aim of Dr. Zwicker’s research program is to increase awareness of this disorder and improve services and outcomes for these children through four research studies:

(1) examining brain structure and function in children with/without DCD and seeing if we can use treatment to change the brain and improve motor skills of children with DCD; (2) determining brain differences and early risk factors for DCD in children born prematurely; (3) establishing the first research-integrated clinic in BC to diagnose children with DCD and creating a research database of psychosocial functioning, participation, and quality of life of children with the disorder; (4) conducting a survey of pediatric occupational therapists in BC to determine their awareness of DCD, and what, if any, service (assessment and/or intervention) they provide.

These studies will give us a better understanding of how the brain differs in children with/without DCD, and will help us to determine if rehabilitation can change the brain and improve outcomes of these children. Because children born prematurely often develop DCD, identifying predictors of DCD in these children will help us to see if we can modify any factors to prevent the disorder and its life-long consequences. The DCD Clinic will provide a new diagnostic service and create a research database to better understand the needs of these children. The survey of occupational therapists will provide a baseline of current service delivery and outline directions for how to better meet the needs of children with DCD in BC.

Research Pillar: