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Developmental Coordination Disorder And ADHD Link

By Brad On April 6, 2011 Under ADHD Comorbid Conditions

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) affects as many as 6% of all children causing them to be uncoordinated and have no refined motor skills.

According to Dr. Orit Bart at Tel Aviv University’s Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions, about half of kids with ADHD also have DCD.

According to Dr. Bart “DCD kids are often described as clumsy. Because they’re usually of average to above-average intelligence, their disorder is rarely considered grave”, however she cautions that, “she cautions that the disorder can have a profound effect throughout their lives.”

We all know how cruel kids can be, usually without being able to understand the effects their harsh words can have. Kids will make fun of other kids who are “different”; and being uncoordinated and clumsy make kids with DCD easy targets.

And of course these kids may end up being ostracized, and lonely and have many social and emotional scars because of this treatment. In fact, children with DCD do report feeling more lonely, and are in fact more likely to try drugs and alcohol. On into adulthood, they’re less likely to master such basic life-skills as driving a car, which can cause further isolation.

Are DCD and ADHD just different names for basically the same thing?

Based on my experience at our adult ADHD support group, I have to even wonder if DCD and ADHD are just different names for basically the same thing.

Lack of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, is thought to be responsible for most of the symptoms of ADHD. While the prefrontal cortex is not directly responsible for movement and coordination, it is responsible for “executive function”.

Executive function has to do with planning, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, rule acquisition, initiating appropriate actions and inhibiting inappropriate actions, and selecting relevant sensory information–most of which could affect what would outwardly appear to be coordination.

How my ADHD gave me a dislocated shoulder

I’ll give you an example from my own life…Several years ago I was mountain biking with a friend. We were bunny-hopping over this large tree which was lying across the trail. I had done it successfully 4 or 5 times in a row, but on my last attempt, I heard a noise behind me (another mountain biker taking) and my attention went to it for a split-second at precisely the time I needed to be concentrating on my jump.

What happened? I screwed up is what happened! I ended up flying head over heels, over the handlebars of my bike and landed squarely on my shoulder which dislocated it, tore my rotator cuff, trapezius and pectoral muscles! Yeah! All because my brain could not filter out what was important to pay attention to!

So you could see how this executive function issue (ADHD) could cause what would be considered a “clumsy” or coordination issue (DCD).

I’ve experienced and heard about many other issues where the result appears to be because of clumsiness, but it’s really because of  executive function, or more basically lack of dopamine in the brain.

One of the guys in our group was told he had auditory processing disorder and had received  school and work accommodations because of his “disability”. However, once he got his ADHD dealt with (through stimulant medications in his case) the “auditory processing disorder” went away.

So it just goes to show you that ADHD, DCD, and probably a lot of other “disorders” that people have, may actually be different expressions of the same core issues–lack of or sub-optimal use of dopamine in these cases.


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