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Occupational Therapy for Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: Sensory Processing

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Occupational therapy plays a crucial role in supporting children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) who struggle with sensory processing. Sensory processing refers to the way the nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to sensory information from the environment. Children with DCD often experience difficulties in processing sensory input, which can impact their motor skills, coordination, and overall daily functioning. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various aspects of occupational therapy for children with DCD, focusing specifically on sensory processing. We will delve into the importance of sensory integration, assessment and evaluation techniques, intervention strategies, and the role of occupational therapists in collaborating with other professionals. By understanding the unique needs of children with DCD and implementing effective occupational therapy interventions, we can help them develop the necessary skills to thrive in their daily lives.

The Importance of Sensory Integration

Sensory integration is a fundamental aspect of occupational therapy for children with DCD. It involves the brain’s ability to organize and interpret sensory information from the environment, allowing individuals to respond appropriately. For children with DCD, sensory integration difficulties can significantly impact their motor skills, coordination, and overall ability to engage in daily activities. By addressing sensory integration challenges, occupational therapists can help children with DCD improve their sensory processing abilities and enhance their overall functioning.

1. Understanding Sensory Processing Challenges

Children with DCD often experience difficulties in processing sensory information, which can manifest in various ways. Some children may be hypersensitive to sensory input, meaning they are overly responsive to certain stimuli. For example, they may be easily overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures. On the other hand, some children may be hyposensitive, meaning they have a decreased response to sensory input. These children may seek out intense sensory experiences or have difficulty recognizing pain or temperature changes. Understanding these sensory processing challenges is crucial for occupational therapists to tailor interventions that address the specific needs of each child.

2. Sensory Integration Assessment and Evaluation

Assessing and evaluating sensory processing difficulties is an essential step in developing effective occupational therapy interventions for children with DCD. Occupational therapists use various assessment tools and techniques to gather information about a child’s sensory processing abilities. These assessments may include standardized tests, clinical observations, and parent or teacher questionnaires. By conducting a comprehensive evaluation, occupational therapists can identify specific sensory processing challenges and develop targeted intervention plans.

3. Intervention Strategies for Sensory Processing

Occupational therapists employ a range of intervention strategies to address sensory processing difficulties in children with DCD. These strategies aim to improve sensory integration, enhance motor skills, and promote overall functional abilities. Some common intervention approaches include:

  • Sensory integration therapy: This approach involves providing controlled sensory experiences to help children regulate their responses to sensory input. Occupational therapists may use activities such as swinging, jumping, or playing with textured materials to stimulate the child’s sensory system and promote integration.
  • Environmental modifications: Creating an environment that supports sensory processing can greatly benefit children with DCD. Occupational therapists may recommend adjustments such as reducing visual clutter, providing sensory breaks, or using adaptive equipment to enhance the child’s ability to engage in daily activities.
  • Motor skill development: Improving motor skills is an integral part of addressing sensory processing difficulties. Occupational therapists may incorporate activities that target specific motor skills, such as balance exercises, hand-eye coordination tasks, or fine motor activities.
  • Self-regulation techniques: Teaching children self-regulation strategies can help them manage sensory input and respond appropriately. Occupational therapists may introduce techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, or sensory diets to support self-regulation.

The Role of Occupational Therapists in Collaboration

Occupational therapists play a vital role in collaborating with other professionals to provide comprehensive care for children with DCD and sensory processing difficulties. Collaboration ensures a holistic approach to intervention and maximizes the child’s progress. Occupational therapists may work closely with:

1. Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers are essential partners in the occupational therapy process. Occupational therapists collaborate with parents to gather information about the child’s sensory processing challenges, set goals, and develop strategies for home-based interventions. By involving parents and caregivers, occupational therapists can ensure consistency and carryover of therapeutic techniques into the child’s daily routines.

2. Teachers and School Staff

Collaboration with teachers and school staff is crucial for supporting children with DCD in educational settings. Occupational therapists can provide training and resources to help teachers create sensory-friendly classrooms, implement strategies to support sensory processing, and adapt activities to meet the child’s needs. By working together, occupational therapists and educators can create an optimal learning environment for children with DCD.

3. Speech and Language Therapists

Children with DCD may also experience difficulties in speech and language development. Occupational therapists collaborate with speech and language therapists to address these challenges holistically. By sharing information and coordinating interventions, these professionals can provide a comprehensive approach to support the child’s overall development.

4. Physical Therapists

Physical therapists play a crucial role in addressing the motor challenges associated with DCD. Occupational therapists collaborate with physical therapists to develop integrated intervention plans that target both sensory processing and motor skills. By working together, these professionals can provide a comprehensive approach to address the unique needs of children with DCD.


Occupational therapy for children with DCD and sensory processing difficulties is a multifaceted and comprehensive approach. By understanding the importance of sensory integration, conducting thorough assessments, and implementing targeted intervention strategies, occupational therapists can make a significant impact on the lives of these children. Collaboration with parents, teachers, and other professionals further enhances the effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions. By addressing sensory processing challenges and promoting the development of motor skills, occupational therapists empower children with DCD to overcome their difficulties and thrive in their daily lives.

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