When an object appears unexpectedly: Anticipatory movement and object circumvention in individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder.


Obstacles often appear unexpectedly in our pathway and these require us to make adjustments to avoid collision. Previous research has demonstrated that healthy adults will make anticipatory adjustments to gait where they have been told there is the possibility of an obstacle appearing. One population that may find this type of anticipatory movement difficult is individuals with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). The current study considered how individuals with and without DCD adjust to the possibility of an obstacle appearing which would require circumvention. Forty-four individuals with DCD and 44 age-matched controls (aged from 7 to 34 years of age) walked down an 11 m walkway under three conditions. Initially they were told this was a clear pathway and nothing in the environment would change (1, no possibility of an obstacle, no obstacle). They then performed a series of trials in which a gate may (2, possibility of an obstacle, obstacle) or may not (3, possibility of an obstacle, no obstacle) partially obstruct their pathway. We found that all participants increased medio-lateral trunk acceleration when there was the possibility of an obstacle but before the obstacle appeared, in addition the typical adults and older children also increased step width. When describing circumvention we found that the younger children showed an increase in trunk velocity and acceleration in all three directions compared to older children and adults. We also found that the individuals with DCD adjusted their path sooner and deviated more than their peers. The degree of adjustment to step width in anticipation of an obstacle was related to later medio-lateral velocity and timing of the deviation. Therefore, the lack of ‘readying’ the system where there is the possibility of an obstacle appearing seen in the individuals with DCD and the younger typical children may explain the increased medio-lateral velocity seen during circumvention.