From as early as six months, Joseph’s mom was worried about him. She noticed that he took longer to crawl and spent a long time shuffling on his bottom. He often displayed a lot of repetition of arm and hand movements. By the time Joseph began school, he experienced difficulties in writing, drawing, and copying. His writing was very messy and he struggled to write on the lines.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is characterized by a wide range of both motor and visual difficulties.  In school, they can experience difficulties in writing, drawing and copying. It is also difficult for children with DCD to do well in tasks that require them to track movement and balance, such as riding a bike.


Students with motor problems are 7x more likely to have poor visual-spatial memory than those without motor difficulties

We use visual-spatial memory for directions and locations. We also use visual–spatial working memory to plan and control our movements. When it is impaired, we struggle with tasks involving spatial planning.

When I tested students with DCD, I found that their poor visual-spatial memory led to difficulties in all areas of learning, especially math.  They can find simple classroom activities, like copying a list from board and keeping track of their place,  difficult. Their poor working memory results in poor learning, regardless of their IQ.


Can exercise ‘readjust’  the brain and help students with DCD learn better?

I tested this theory in a study.  Students with DCD participated in a 13-week program of exercises with a physical therapist, including balancing, throwing and catching objects.

At the end of the training, their motor skills improved: they were able to balance better,  throw and catch things much better compared to when they started the training.

However, the physical training did not improve their learning. They still had very low scores in reading and math, much lower than they should for their age.

In order to improve learning, we need to improve the foundation of learning - their poor working memory.