Participation of Boys with Developmental Coordination Disorder in Gymnastics

By Hessell, Stephanie; Hocking, Clare et al. | New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Participation of Boys with Developmental Coordination Disorder in Gymnastics


Hessell, Stephanie, Hocking, Clare, Davies, Sharyn Graham, New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy


Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) have coordination difficulties that significantly interfere with academic achievement, activities of daily living (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), and leisure activities (Dunford, Missiuna, Street, & Sibert, 2005). Engaging in meaningful occupations such as schooling, self care, and leisure, promotes health and well-being (Wilcock, 2006). Therefore the reduced ability and opportunities children with DCD have to participate in social occupations have been found to result in psychosocial problems (Chu, 1998; Poulsen, Ziviani, Cuskelly, & Smith, 2007) and increased sedentary behaviour (Poulsen, Ziviani, & Cuskelly, 2008; Schott, Alof, Hultsch, & Meermann, 2007). Indeed, children with DCD themselves have voiced concern over their ability to participate in leisure activities (Dunford, et al.).

In response to these concerns participation in accessible occupations, including gymnastics, is encouraged as "children with DCD tend to have more success with individual sports ... some examples of these types of individual sporting activities include ... gymnastics" (Rivard, & Missiuna, 2004, p. 3). The features that facilitate participation in gymnastics have not been closely investigated. However, two key factors have been suggested as possible influences. One, the attitude of gymnastics coaches (Fennick & Royle, 2003) and two, the individuality of the performance (Rivard & Missiuna, 2004). How these features exert an influence on accessibility may be best understood within the social model of disability. This model states that "disability is not something individuals have... Disability is the process which happens when one group of people create barriers by designing a world only for their way of living, taking no account of the impairments other people have" (Ministry of Health, 2001, p. 1).

In the same way, external influences (i.e. the attitude or presence of others) are considered key elements of the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (World Health Organization (WHO), 2001). This classification system asserts that the actual participation outcomes of having a health condition (such as DCD) and the barriers and facilitators encountered in physical and social environments interact to influence function, disability and health. This small-scale study was designed to explore this interplay and provide a detailed description of why gymnastics is accessible to children with DCD.

Little is known about the influence of environmental factors on the participation of children with DCD. Curious as to the factors that would make gymnastics accessible to children with DCD, the study was undertaken to explore the question: What is the culture of a community gymnastics group in which children with DCD participate? In other words, we wanted to find out whether children with DCD could effectively participate in a community gymnastics group and what internal and external factors influence successful participation.

Literature review

Much of the literature regarding DCD has been directed at the level of body structure and function, with a multitude of therapeutic approaches and techniques being developed to improve children's movement abilities (Peters & Wright, 1999; Schoemaker, Hijlkema, & Kalverboer, 1994). Outcome studies, however, report mixed findings with a review of the literature concluding "empirical data do not convincingly support their effectiveness" (Mandich, Polatajko, Macnab, & Miller, 2001, p. 65). More recently, the Cognitive Orientation to Daily Occupational Performance approach, designed to develop children's use of cognitive strategies has had success (Polatajko, Mandich, Miller, & Macnab, 2001). This approach involves using strategies while participating in an actual occupation and, when compared with the literature on treating the disorder, has greater potential to enhance understandings of the relationship between DCD and participation in occupation (Mandich, Polatajko, & Rodger, 2003). …

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Participation of Boys with Developmental Coordination Disorder in Gymnastics
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