Australian Occupational Therapy Journal
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Human Performance
Canada Research Chairs Program, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (JZ) / BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (JZ)
Background: Developmental coordination disorder (DCD), a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder with motor and psychosocial consequences, can significantly impact children's quality of life. In Australia, most children with diagnosed/suspected DCD have received occupational therapy services, more so than any other health service. As such, occupational therapists are key in identification and treatment and require a sound knowledge of diagnostic criteria and the best evidence for practice. This study explored current occupational therapy services for children with DCD. Areas for development are identified to improve the identification of, and subsequent intervention for, children with DCD. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, an online survey was completed in September and October 2020 by 175 occupational therapists working in Australia. Results: Although all therapists worked with children who met the criteria for DCD diagnosis, 70% worked with children with no specific diagnosis and 50% worked with children with outdated diagnostic labels. Australian occupational therapists used similar models/frameworks (commonly a multisensory/sensory processing approach) to guide practice with children with DCD, regardless of therapist characteristics, practice setting (clinic/community, rural/urban), how therapy is funded, or the state where the therapists completed their training/currently practiced. Although assessment practices did not differ significantly, therapists with greater years of paediatric practice and those who studied and/or practiced in Western Australia were more likely to assess to identify DCD. Half of the therapists did not assess to identify DCD; however, 60% of assessing therapists reported best practice methods in assessment for DCD, indicating emerging best practices in the Australian context. Conclusion: The findings from this study suggest that small adaptations to current occupational therapy practice may enhance the early identification of children with DCD in Australia. The existing gaps in evidence to practice must be addressed to improve current Australian practice and increase access to appropriate services and ultimately improve the quality of life for children with DCD.
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