A comparison of exercise endurance levels between children diagnosed with developmental co-ordination disorder and endurance levels of normal children, between the ages of seven and ten years

Benjamin, Natalie Alice
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In South Africa, the concept of Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) is relatively unfamiliar and not well understood. The exact epidemiology is unknown, but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV, 2000) indicate that the value could be between five and ten percent of the American population. Many studies on DCD have been conducted and most highlight the immense difficulties these children experience with motor activities, both in sport and daily tasks. However, few studies specifically investigated endurance and the impact it has on the child’s ability to function normally without too much effort and fatigue due to the condition. The main aim of this study was to determine the difference in submaximal endurance levels between children diagnosed with DCD and normally developing children. Children between the ages of seven and ten years were included in the study. The Six Minute Walk Test (6MWT) was employed to determine the average distance covered by each of two groups that were selected to participate in the study and thus, the submaximal endurance levels of each group. The first group of participants consisted of children having a diagnosis of DCD (n=31) and the second comparative group consisted of normally developing children (n=17). The results were analysed and compared using the Student t-test. Anthropometric data of height, age, gender and weight as well as baseline data of breathing rate, heart rate and peak flow were taken. These were compared to normative data as determined by the growth charts of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as previous research on the various topics. The average distance covered by the DCD group was 375.89 metres with a standard deviation of ±73.33 and the mean distance covered by the normal comparative group was 430.48 metres with a standard deviation of ±60.85. When the two groups were compared it produced a p-value of 0.0086 which was a statistically significant difference. The normally developing group covered on average 54.6 metres more distance than the group with co-ordination difficulties. In comparison to studies that determined normal age (Lammers et al, 2008) and height (Li et al, 2007) reference values, the children within the eight-year age band for the normally developing group fell within the determined values. The other age bands fell below average for both the DCD and normally developing groups. The finding of the current study is important as it highlights the discrepancy in the submaximal endurance levels of children with DCD when compared to normally developing children of the same age. This is important when considering that most of the activities of daily living are performed at submaximal endurance levels and it is particularly important to note that these are the activities that children with DCD find challenging. The 6MWT can be performed by children as young as four years of age, with explanation and encouragement. This is particularly helpful in the clinical setting, as other tests of physical fitness require more time, equipment and generally good co-ordination in the individual being tested. The 6MWT is easy to apply and requires few tools, making it a cost and time effective means of testing submaximal fitness in children. It is thus a useful measure to determine whether therapeutic intervention has impacted endurance for activities of daily living.
MSc (Physiotherapy), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand
developmental co-ordination disorder , exercise , endurance