Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Exercise Science | Health and Physical Education | Kinesiology | Leisure Studies | Other Rehabilitation and Therapy | Public Health | Sports Sciences | Sports Studies


Almost every swim teacher has encountered an individual who had difficulty learning to swim, whose movements appeared dissimilar from peers, or who needed to repeat swim course instructional levels many times. That individual might have had difficulty with sport activities, handwriting, and been clumsy in gross and fine motor tasks. Difficulty with coordination and control of movement may suggest a diagnosis of developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Individuals experiencing DCD may feel left out, inadequate, unhappy, frustrated, and embarrassed by his or her ineptness. These feelings may result in an individual withdrawing or refusing to join in and participate in physical activity. DCD also can lead to disruptive behavior out of frustration from his or her lack of competence. Individuals with DCD may be “labeled” lazy, slow, clumsy, stupid, or troublemaker. No matter what the label, the individual’s difficulty with movement coordination and control can have lasting effects in all areas of daily life. For the swim student with DCD, frustration can lead to refusal to participate, difficulty with learning swim tasks, and future negative attitudes about aquatic activity including fear of water later in life. Individuals with DCD may never acquire aquatic personal safety skills nor be able to use aquatics as a lifelong fitness activity. It is important to identify symptoms of DCD early and correctly to provide appropriate and timely swimming intervention. This article explores diagnosis of developmental coordination disorder (DCD), causes of movement coordination and control issues, how DCD relates to other disabilities, and how lack of or inappropriate remediation can negatively impact aquatic participation. This article will include techniques for assisting the individual with DCD to master swimming and water safety skills.