Journal Article

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


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, 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 11m 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 (7-11yrs) 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.

Attached files


Wilmut, Kate
Barnett, Anna Louise

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health


Year of publication: 2017
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-07-11

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of When an object appears unexpectedly: foot placement during obstacle circumvention in children and adults with Developmental Coordination Disorder
This RADAR resource is Cited by Navigational abilities in individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Phase 4: Unexpected obstacle avoidance typical adults


  • Owner: Rosa Teira Paz
  • Collection: Outputs
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live
  • Views (since Sept 2022): 375