Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 235, Issue 10, pp 2947–2958 | Cite as

When an object appears unexpectedly: foot placement during obstacle circumvention in children and adults with Developmental Coordination Disorder

Research Article


Adjustments to locomotion to avoid an obstacle require a change to the usual pattern of foot placement, i.e. changes to step length and/or step width. Previous studies have demonstrated a difficulty in individuals with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) in controlling stability while both stepping over and while circumventing an obstacle. In a previous study, we have considered the way in which individuals with DCD prepare for the possibility of an obstacle appearing (Wilmut and Barnett in Exp Brain Res 235:1531–1340, 2017). Using a parallel data set from this same task on the same individuals, the aim of the current study was to investigate the exact nature of changes in foot placement during obstacle avoidance, as this was not clear from previous work. Children and adults aged from 7 to 34 years of age took part in the study. Forty-four met the criteria for a diagnosis of DCD and there were 44 typically developing (TD) age and gender-matched controls. Participants walked at a comfortable pace down an 11 m walkway; on 6 out of 36 trials a ‘gate’ closed across their pathway which required circumvention. These 6 ‘gate close’ trials were analysed for this study. The number and magnitude of step length and step width adjustments were similar across the DCD and TD groups, however, the younger children (7–11 years) made a greater number of early adjustments compared to the older children and adults (12–34 years of age). In contrast the adults made a greater number of adjustments later in the movement compared to the children. In terms of foot placement adjustments a clear preference was seen across all participants to use adjustments which resulted in reducing step length, stepping away from the obstacle and a combination of these. Apart from subtle differences, the individuals with DCD make step placements to circumvent an obstacle in line with their peers. It is suggested that the choice of foot placement strategy in individuals with DCD, although in line with their peers, may not be optimal for their level of motor ability.


Stability Circumvention Foot placement Constraints-based-approach 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Perception and Motion Analysis LabOxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK

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