The effect of advance ('precue') information on short aiming movements was explored in adults, high school children, and primary school children with and without developmental coordination disorder (n=10, 14, 16, 10, respectively). Reaction times in the DCD group were longer than in the other groups and were more influenced by the extent to which the precue constrained the possible action space. In contrast, reaction time did not alter as a function of precue condition in adults. Children with DCD showed greater inaccuracy of response (despite the increased RT). We suggest that the different precue effects reflect differences in the relative benefits of priming an action prior to definitive information about the movement goal. The benefits are an interacting function of the task and the skill level of the individual. Our experiment shows that children with DCD gain a benefit from advance preparation in simple aiming movements, highlighting their low skill levels. This result suggests that goal-directed RTs may have diagnostic potential within the clinic.
Human arm movements need 'online' corrections due to noise in perception and action. A Step-Perturbation paradigm explored online corrections in control children and children with DCD aged between 7 and 13 years. Control children found the task straightforward: a distracter had no effect and they managed to stop relatively quickly. Children with DCD found the task difficult and the apparatus was modified accordingly (decreased postural and force production demands). The distracter affected some children with DCD and some found it difficult to stop. All of the DCD population showed poorer performance in both the perturbation and non-perturbation condition. Nevertheless, there was no interaction between group and condition. Thus, this study found no evidence for specific deficits in online correction mechanisms in DCD. We suggest that: (i) fundamental problems in generating basic movements can account for the documented difficulties in correcting on-going movements, and (ii) such fundamental difficulties make it very difficult to pinpoint specific mechanism deficits.