The 'hidden disability' affecting one in 20 children

An Australia-first report released today has revealed the significant educational, social and emotional toll facing children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).

Often described as a ‘hidden disability,’ DCD is a little-known neurodevelopmental condition, even among health professionals and educators. Its effect on motor skills and coordination means children with DCD have trouble with everyday activities like getting dressed, eating, writing, running, or playing.

The condition commonly co-occurs with other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD or autism, meaning a DCD diagnosis can often be delayed and children can wait several years for treatment once parents first raise concern.

To better understand its impact, researchers at Victoria University in Melbourne and Telethon Kids Institute in Perth surveyed parents of 443 children across Australia.

“The report aims to raise awareness and ensure better standardised diagnosis, treatment and support for the lifelong disorder,” VU co-researcher Dr Jacqueline Williams said.

“We call on state and federal governments to recognise DCD and provide financial support for improved therapies and services”.

As DCD children are eligible only until age seven for NDIS ‘developmental delays’ funding, many parents also report significant and long-term out-of-pocket expenses for therapists such as exercise physiologists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists or psychologists.

According to Telethon Kids co-researcher Dr Melissa Licari, more than 80% of families surveyed reported DCD negatively affected their child’s potential at school because teachers were unaware of the condition, and nearly all were concerned about the social and emotional health of their child.

Report recommendations include the adoption of consistent and correct terminology and standardised practice for DCD in Australia, clear diagnosis to identify children at risk of DCD before age five to enable early intervention and funding by education departments for DCD teacher awareness training and resources.