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Information for those studying/working in Further and Higher Education

This leaflet was produced through a consensus process led by Movement Matters, which involved relevant stakeholders and organisations from across the UK.

Who is this information sheet for?

These guidelines are intended to provide some brief information and guidance for families, lecturers, clinicians and support services of students who may have movement difficulties. It focuses particularly on the assessment process that should be adopted in response to difficulties in the FE/HE context.

Who produced this information sheet?

The guidelines have been produced through a consensus process, led by Movement Matters (Professors Amanda Kirby, David Sugden, Elisabeth Hill & Anna Barnett) and involving relevant stakeholders, including: Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education (ADSHE); DCD-UK; The Dyspraxia Foundation; The professional association of teachers of students with specific learning difficulties (PATOSS); and SpLD Test Evaluation Committee (STEC).

What is DCD?

  • Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as Dyspraxia in the UK, is a common disorder affecting fine or gross motor coordination in children and adults.
  • This lifelong condition is formally recognised by international organisations including the World Health Organisation.
  • DCD is distinct from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke and occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
  • Individuals may vary in how their difficulties present; these may change over time depending on environmental demands and life experience.
  • An individual's coordination difficulties may affect participation and functioning of everyday life skills in education, work and employment.
  • Children may present with difficulties with self-care, writing, typing, riding a bike and play as well as other educational and recreational activities.
  • In adulthood many of these difficulties will continue, as well as learning new skills at home, in education and work, such as driving a car and DIY.
  • There may be a range of co-occurring difficulties which can also have serious negative impacts on daily life. These include social and emotional difficulties as well as problems with time management, planning and personal organisation. These difficulties may also affect an adult's education or employment experiences.

Assessment protocol:

Typically an assessment will be made by a suitably qualified and trained assessor e.g. teacher with AMBDA, Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, Medical Professional. It will consider the following:

  1. Detailed history-taking from the adult. Support for this (if possible and where appropriate) from a family member or caregiver, including supporting evidence (where available) from school reports, handwriting samples, childhood diagnostic reports etc.
    Purpose: To provide information and evidence on motor difficulties (among other things) in childhood. If there is no history of coordination difficulties in childhood, other causes of the presenting difficulties should be further explored.
  2. Current situation: questions relating to current experiences.
    Purpose: To evaluate current impact of history taken, impact in fine and/or gross motor areas.
  3. Checklists/questionnaires: Currently little available, where possible use the ADC (available for free from the Dyscovery Centre).
    Purpose: To support history gathering and to aid choice of tools for assessment and support for that individual.
  4.  Differential diagnosis: Questions to ensure no other causes of apparent DCD, including acquired head injury, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, acquired in adult motor conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.
    Purpose: To rule out other reasons for co-ordination difficulties being present.
  5. Observations examination to check exclusion criteria: These should be undertaken where possible by appropriately trained professionals. However all assessors should pay attention to the quality of movements seen, and if concerned should consider onward referral (e.g. odd gait, tremor, obvious weakness).
    Purpose: To confirm diagnosis.
  6. Motor assessment: Currently there are limited assessment tools available that are normed for the specific age range seen within FE/HE. In some cases there are also restrictions to the professionals who can use them. The most commonly used tests are the Movement ABC (Henderson, Sugden & Barnett, 2007), and the Bruininks-Oseretsky test (now available the BOT-2 Short Brief Form: Bruininks & Bruininks, 2005). The publishers can be contacted to provide training on these tests.
    Purpose: To confirm diagnosis and provide an indication of the aspects of movement (e.g. fine or gross) that are problematic.
  7. Further assessments: After this evaluation, if DCD is suspected, then assess the individual using DASH/DASH 17+ [5], Beery VMI [6], copying vs. writing task. If difficulties in other cognitive areas are suspected (as DCD is often seen to co-occur with other neurodevelopmental disorders such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorder), evaluate these using appropriate cognitive tests.
    Purpose: To confirm the breadth and impact of motor difficulties, as well as co-occurring cognitive deficits in areas likely to be impacted in FE/HE. 

Note that regarding motor testing, performance at/below 5th centile on either fine or gross motor scores warrants a diagnosis of DCD, provided that the other evidence collated is also consistent with this diagnosis.

Where can I go for further information?
Click here to download leaflet


  • Barnett, A., Henderson, S.E., Scheib, B. & Schulz, J. (2007). Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH). Pearson.
  • Barnett, A., Henderson, S.E., Scheib, B. & Schulz, J. (2010). Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH 17+). Pearson.
  • Beery, K. & Beery, N. (2004). Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration (VMI) (5th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: NCS Pearson Inc.
  • Bruininks, R.H. & Bruininks, B.D. (2005). Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2): Pearson Education.
  • Colarusso, R. P. & Hammill, D.D. (2003). Motor-Free Visual Perception Test (MVPT-3) (3rd ed.). Novato, CA: Academic Therapy Publications.
  • Henderson, S.E., Sugden, D.A. & Barnett, A.L. (2007). Movement Assessment Battery for Children (2nd ed.). London: Pearson Assessment.

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