Research Update: Sensory processing difficulties (SPD) and their relation to motor performance and to child’s perceived competence among children with developmental coordination disorders

In February 2018, this paper by Batya Engel Yeger and Dalit Segal was published.


Objective: Movement is dependent on sensory input. Both Developmental Coordination Disorders (DCD) and sensory processing difficulties (SPD) may reduce child’s self-competence and daily function. However, the knowledge about SPD among children with DCD and their relation to their motor performance and self-competence is scarce. This study aimed to (1) compare sensory processing abilities and self competence between children with DCD and typical controls (2) examine the relationship between SPD, DCD severity and child’s perceived competence among children with DCD.

Methods: The study included 90 children aged 4-10 years: 32 children with DCD and 58 typical controls. All children performed the Movement Assessment Battery for children (M-ABC). Those who scored lower than the 15% on the M-ABC were included in the study group. The parents of all children completed the Short Sensory Profile (SSP) which evaluates the child’s sensory processing abilities in daily life. Children with DCD also completed the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Acceptance for Young Children.

Results: One third of the DCD group showed SPD as compared to 0% of the controls (χ²2=29.11;p<.0001). Among children with DCD, SPD severity correlated with lower balance and manual dexterity. Manual dexterity predicted 32% of child’s physical competence. Auditory/visual sensitivity added 17% to this prediction.

Conclusion: SPD may be prevalent among children with DCD and partially explain their motor difficulties. However, motor difficulties seem to have a greater impact on self-competence of children with DCD. Further studies with larger samples should examine the relationship between DCD, SPD and self-competence. SPD and self competence should be included in the intervention for children with DCD.


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