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Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD)/Dyspraxia

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This section introduces Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) or dyspraxia and explores how it may impact on a student’s academic performance and participation in university life. Here, the main focus is to suggest ways in which you as a staff member can support students with DCD/dyspraxia within their role of being a student.

Introduction

Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) is an umbrella term for gross and/or fine motor difficulties, motor planning difficulties, and sensory integration dysfunction. In general, DCD is now the preferred term instead of dyspraxia and the terms are used interchangeably for the purposes of this information.

DCD implies difficulty in the co-ordination of movement. Gross motor skills (big movements of the larger muscles: arms, legs, torso, and feet) and fine motor skills (small movements in the smaller muscles of the fingers, toes, wrists, and mouth) are hard to learn and difficult to retain and generalise. People with DCD often have difficulties with attention and organisation.

Difficulties that may be experienced by university students with DCD or dyspraxia.

  • Students with DCD are likely to have difficulties with handwriting, copying diagrams, and writing notes from the board. Keyboard skills can be difficult to acquire.
  • Students with DCD can have difficulties with postural control, balance, and co-ordination.
  • Students with DCD may have difficulty with spatial awareness and may trip or fall more easily.
  • Students may have difficulty with planning and organising their academic work.
  • Students with DCD may have difficulty with fine motor skills for accuracy e.g. in laboratory work, or in precise clinical skills for courses such as Nursing.
  • Concentration, time management, and planning can be very challenging for some students with DCD.
  • Some students with DCD may have difficulty with expressing their thoughts clearly.
  • Some people with DCD can be sensitive to sensory information such as sound, light, or touch.
  • Students with DCD may have difficulties with written expression, work organisation, visual skills, oral skills, or numeracy skills.
  • Students with DCD sometimes have associated mental health difficulties.

Strategies staff can use to support students

  • As explained here, students may have disclosed DCD/dyspraxia to their School. Access the LENS report for details on how you can support the student. Implement and support a student’s reasonable accommodations with efficiency and discretion. Be mindful of how having DCD may impact a student’s experience of university life.
  • Make lecture notes and other handouts available in advance if possible. As explained, a student with DCD may have difficulty writing notes in lectures. Having access to the notes within the lecture (printed or on a laptop) facilitates the student to follow the format of the lecture, and add in notes as appropriate.
  • Students with DCD may find it difficult to manage time and plan ahead. A clear timeline of events, assignments, and deadlines in the course handbook would support students to know when things are due.
  • A written outline of the course in the student handbook may assist students with DCD to follow the course and revise for exams. Provision of clear lecture notes on each topic can be very helpful for a student with DCD.
  • Prioritise reading lists if possible. Students with DCD often find it difficult to access and organise information, so prioritising reading might help to direct the student to the most pertinent texts.

Resource/Links

If you would like more information or support, contact the Disability Service. See the following links for more information about DCD and useful resources: