Children studying in a library 370.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Nearly everyone has heard of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
but there is another disorder no less troublesome.
Children who have
difficulty carrying out routine tasks such as getting dressed, playing with
particular types of games, drawing, copying from the board in school and typing
at the computer could be suffering from developmental coordination disorder
(DCD), and not necessarily from ADHD, says Prof. Sara Rosenblum of the
University of Haifa’s department of occupational therapy, whose new study set
out to shed light on the problem. In quite a few cases, children are not
diagnosed early enough or are diagnosed incorrectly. This can lead to
frustration and a sense of disability and even a decline that will ultimately
require psychological therapy, she explains.
A person with DCD suffers
from childhood and throughout adult life. Unlike various illnesses or trauma,
says Rosenblum, this disorder is expressed in the inability to control the
process of carrying out a particular motor task, consolidate it in memory and
repeat the same task automatically. Simple tasks, such as closing buttons, tying
laces or writing – which for healthy people become automatic – are difficult to
carry out for people with DCD.
When these children grow up, they are more
likely to have trouble with temporal and spatial organization and have
difficulty estimating distance and speed, which could prevent them from learning
to drive successfully or even riding a bicycle, she adds.
deficit is neuralbased – it is founded in atypical brain activity – it is
particularly difficult to diagnose in children. Going undiagnosed often worsens
the individuals sense of frustration and shame, and sufferers are therefore more
likely to grow up to be introverted adults.
The current study, conducted
by Rosenblum and Dr. Miri Livneh-Zirinski of Kupat Holim Meuhedet, sets out to
identify DCD in children by means of a simple and noninvasive test of writing
Two sample groups participated in the study – 20 children
diagnosed with DCD and 20 more with no known symptoms of the
Each participant was asked to write his or her name, list the
letters of the alphabet and copy a full paragraph. The tasks were conducted
using a special electronic pen and pad and a program developed by the researcher
that shows objective measures that relate to the temporal and spatial
characteristics of the writing and pressure on the pad.
can be analyzed with regard to motor, sensory and cognitive performance by
taking note of elements such as in-air time per stroke, force of writing and the
time taken to write each letter.
The study found that the two groups
showed very different characteristic s in various parameters. Those with DCD
took up to three times longer than the other children writing each letter; they
also held the pen in the air for longer; and they put more pressure on the pad
with the pen. The researchers said these results give further emphasis to the
suffering that children with DCD undergo in the classroom and any time they are
required to complete a writing task.
Children with DCD are “transparent.”
They have no physiological or intellectual deformities, and in many cases they
are above average in intelligence. But they are not able to complete tasks that
require coordination between motor, sensory and cognitive functions. The study
comes to show how a simple everyday task can be used to diagnose individuals
with DCD, and subsequently enable them to get the necessary treatment and
guidance with occupational therapy, concludes Rosenblum.
TOO EARLY, TOO
SOON Babies born just a few weeks early have worse health outcomes than
full-term babies, according to a study in the UK recently published in the
British Medical Journal. The authors, from the Universities of Leicester,
Liverpool, Oxford and Warwick and from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit,
studied over 18,000 British babies born between September 2000 and August 2001.
Health outcomes were studied when the infants reached nine months, three years
and five years of age.
Health outcomes assessed included height, weight
and body mass index, while parents also reported on number of hospital visits,
long-standing illness, disability or infirmity, wheezing, use of prescribed
medication and overall rating of child’s health.
Both moderate- to
latepreterm (32 to 36 weeks) and early-term (37 to 38 weeks) babies required
re-admission to hospital in the first few months more often than fullterm babies
(39 to 41 weeks).
Those born between 33 and 36 weeks had an increased
risk of asthma and wheezing compared to full-term babies.
found that the shorter the pregnancy, the greater the risk of poor health
outcomes. The greatest contribution to disease at the age of both three and five
was being born moderate- or latepreterm or early-term.The study also discovered
that mothers of children born at less than 37 weeks were more likely to be
single and less likely to have educational qualifications or to work in
managerial positions. Mothers of very preterm babies were more likely to smoke
and less likely to breastfeed for four or more months than those delivered at or
beyond 37 weeks.
The authors say it is mistaken just to group babies as
preterm or term, as the study demonstrates a “continuum of increasing risk of
adverse outcome with increasing prematurity, even approaching full term
gestation.” They call for further study of factors that influence health
outcomes for babies born between 32 and 38 weeks gestation so that the planning
and delivery of healthcare services can be further improved.