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Practitioner Review: Approaches to assessment and treatment of children with DCD: an evaluative review


Peter Wilson, Division of Psychology, RMIT University, City Campus, PO Box 2476V, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 3001; Tel: -61 3 9925 2906; Fax: -61 3 9925 3587; Email:


Background:  Movement clumsiness (or Developmental Coordination Disorder – DCD) has gained increasing recognition as a significant condition of childhood. However, some uncertainty still exists about diagnosis. Accordingly, approaches to assessment and treatment are varied, each drawing on distinct theoretical assumptions about the aetiology of the condition and its developmental course.

Method:  This review evaluates the current status of different approaches to motor assessment and treatment for children with DCD. These approaches are divided according to their broad conceptual origin (or explanatory framework): Normative Functional Skill Approach, General Abilities Approach, Neurodevelopmental Theory, Dynamical Systems Theory, and the Cognitive Neuroscientific Approach.

Conclusions:  Each conceptual framework is shown to support assessment and treatment methods with varying degrees of conceptual and psychometric integrity. The normative functional skill approach supports the major screening devices for DCD and cognitive (or top-down) approaches to intervention. The general abilities approach and traditional neurodevelopmental theory are not well supported by recent research. The dynamical systems approach supports promising trends in biomechanical or kinematic analysis of movement, ecological task analysis, and task-specific intervention. Finally, and more recently, the cognitive neuroscientific approach has generated some examples of process-oriented assessment and treatment based on validated (brain–behaviour) models of motor control and learning. A multi-level approach to movement assessment and treatment is recommended for DCD, providing a more complete representation of motor development at different levels of function – behavioural, neurocognitive, and emotional.