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:
- gross motor skills – their ability to use large muscles that co-ordinate significant body movements, such as moving around, jumping and balancing
- fine motor skills – their ability to use small muscles for accurate co-ordinated movements, such as drawing and placing small pegs in holes
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.
For a diagnosis of DCD to be made, your child will usually need to meet all of the following criteria:
- their motor skills are significantly below the level expected for their age and opportunities they have had to learn and use these skills
- their lack of motor skill significantly and persistently affects their day-to-day activities and achievements at school
- their symptoms first developed during an early stage of their development
- their lack of motor skills isn't better explained by long-term delay in all areas (general learning disability) or rare medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
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.