What can you do to help your child with DCD?

First get your child assessed by a paediatric physiotherapist, who will also refer you to other health care professionals such as an occupational therapist and/or educational psychologist as required.

Encourage your child to participate in group activities and play. Think play dates, messy and fitness-based fun activities your child has an interest in… Let them climb, run, bounce, jump, create, mess and live!

Choose ‘lifestyle’ sports which use repetition and do not depend on having a fast reaction time or needing to anticipate movement (examples are swimming, running, horse-riding and even rock-climbing, all better than the team sports which include a ball).

Motivate your child to try a difficult task or activity; even if they struggle or fall, encourage them to get back up and try again. But do not do the activity or task for them. You can help a lot more by guiding, encouraging and praising your child.

Ensure that you are diligent and consistent with the home programme your therapist\s prescribe, especially when it comes to following a prescribed sensory diet, exercises and cognitive/behavioural tasks.

Invest in an exercise ball your child can sit on during desk activities, as it corrects their posture and strengthens their core muscles while helping them focus and direct extra energy away (this is typically what makes them fidgety). Ask your paediatric physiotherapist to recommend the correct size of ball and advise you on the correct desk height and surface incline (slope) for your child.

Incorporate their exercise and therapy programme into your daily life and activities, to ensure that they are active and doing the prescribed exercises throughout the day. That is how we build endurance, improve balance and coordination. (So, for instance, everyone in the house must hop on their left leg from the kitchen to the living room and on their right leg from the living room to the kitchen, or your child must do the wheelbarrow walk with you from the front door to his room when he arrives home from school).

Break a difficult task or movement down into its components and practise one part of the task/movement first (so with star jumps: start with the leg movement, practising it repetitively – using a mirror often helps – then do the arm movement repetitively on its own, then put them together by slowing down the movement and repeating this using verbal cues).

Get your child’s carers and teachers involved and on board with the therapy intervention plan!

If you are concerned about your child’s development or have any questions about DCD,
feel free to contact the Paediatrics Physiotherapy Group at paediatrics@saphysio.co.za 
or visit www.saphysio.co.za  and use the ‘Find A Physio’ function to locate a paediatric physiotherapist in your area.

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