Head–torso–hand coordination in children with and without developmental coordination disorder


  • Acknowledgements
    The first and second authors were funded by the Wellcome Trust summer research scholarship. This study was supported by Action Medical Research and a SPARK award.

Dr Andrew D Wilson at Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK. E-mail: Andrew.D.Wilson@warwick.ac.uk


Aim  This study investigated the nature of coordination and control problems in children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

Method  Seven adults (two males, five females, age range 20–28y; mean 23y, SD 2y 8mo) and eight children with DCD (six males, two females, age range 7–9y; mean 8y, SD 8mo), and 10 without DCD (seven males, three females, age range 7–9y; mean 8y, SD 7mo) sat in a swivel chair and looked at or pointed to targets. Optoelectronic apparatus recorded head, torso, and hand movements, and the spatial and temporal characteristics of the movements were computed.

Results  Head movement times were longer (p<0.05) in children with DCD than in the comparison group, even in the looking task, suggesting that these children experience problems at the lowest level of coordination (the coupling of synergistic muscle groups within a single degree of freedom). Increasing the task demands with the pointing condition affected the performance of children with DCD to a much greater extent than the other groups, most noticeably in key feedforward kinematic landmarks. Temporal coordination data indicated that all three groups attempted to produce similar movement patterns to each other, but that the children with DCD were much less successful than age-matched children in the comparison group.

Interpretation  Children with DCD have difficulty coordinating and controlling single degree-of-freedom movements; this problem makes more complex tasks disproportionately difficult for them. Quantitative analysis of kinematics provides key insights into the nature of the problems faced by children with DCD.