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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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WESSELS, Yolandie; PIENAAR, Anita E.  and  PEENS, Anquanette. Gender and racial differences in 6 and 7 year old children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) in learning related abilities and ADHD. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2008, vol.48, n.4, pp.493-504. ISSN 2224-7912.

Early childhood is regarded as a unique period of a child's life, as this is a time in which they develop physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. Proper development of fundamental motor skills are therefore important during this period as it forms essential building blocks for more complex motor skills and perceptual motor development, while it is also a critical part of a young child's school readiness make-up. Research findings report co-morbidity between problems such as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), learning related problems and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and also that problems such as these interfere with the sound development of a significant percentage of school children (Sugden & Sugden, 1991:329; Missiuna, 1994:227; Winnick, 2005:195). South Africa has a diverse population including different racial groups. Adding to this complexity, people in this country come from different economical backgrounds which may impede on the stimulation young children receive before they enter the formal school system. Although differences in the motor development of children from different racial groups are reported in the literature, few research findings with regard to coordination difficulties, learning related problems and ADHD differences among children from different racial groups are found in the literature. Gender differences are reported, indicating boys to experience more problems compared to girls with DCD (ratio 2-3:1); learning related problems (3-15 times) and ADHD (ratio 2-9:1). A study by Pienaar (2005:322) indicates that Black and Coloured children between the ages of 10 and 12 years had higher percentages of problems in fine motor skills compared to White and Indian children, while White boys and Indian girls had more ball skill problems compared to Black and Coloured children. No literature could however be found regarding racial differences for ADHD and learning related problems among school beginners with DCD. The aim of the study was therefore to determine whether gender and racial differences exist between school beginners in the age group 6 to 7 years diagnosed with DCD with regard to ADHD and learning-related problems. Ninety-nine (N=99) learners were identified, randomly and proportionally representative of various ethnic groups [White (n = 37), Black (n = 50) and Coloured (n = 12)], and evaluated with the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC), Aptitude Test for School Beginners Test Battery (ASB), Taylor Hyperactivity Checklist and the Modified Conner's Abbreviated Teacher questionnaire through which a combined ADHD total was obtained. The learning-related skills (determined with the ASB) of boys (n = 47) and girls (n = 52) who were classified by the MABC as DCD (< 15e percentile) were compared with those of boys and girls without DCD by means of t-testing (p< 0.05, StatSoft, 2006). The results indicate a non-significant gender interaction between DCD and learning-related problems, although gender differences with regard to the ADHD total and one sub-item of the ASB, namely coordination, was found. An ANOVA followed by a Tuckey post hoc analysis indicated the numerical skills of Black children with coordination problems were significantly poorer than White and Coloured children, while their verbal comprehension skills and their ASB total only differed significantly from White children. It can be concluded that boys and girls diagnosed with DCD do not differ much regarding learning related problems (boys only tested poorer in coordination skills than girls). Boys with DCD, however, experienced significantly more attention related problems once diagnosed with DCD. The racial groups also did not differ much, although difficulties pointing to numerical and verbal comprehension problems among young Black children were indicated by the results. Although more research is needed to back up the findings of this study, it is necessary to address the differences found, especially those which are substantiated by other research findings. Most of the identified differences need to be addressed by teachers in the pre-school years, and motor intervention programmes during this period could be very effective in addressing problems such as coordination and attention difficulties (especially for the boys), and perceptual motor activities (for numeric and verbal comprehension) among Black children who show motor backlogs.

Keywords : Learning difficulties; DCD; gender; ADHD; coordinatiion; motor development; children; school readiness; race; ethnic; attention; hyperactivity.

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