DAMP is an accepted term in Australia used by Westmead Children’s Hospital and Sydney Children’s Hospital to describe children who present with a mixture of coordination, attention, emotional, speech and sensory perception deficits, including receptive and expressive communication difficulties, however they do not fit well into another diagnostic group.
The Parent’s Experience / Symptoms
DAMP may include coordination difficulties that express themselves in poor balance, gross and fine motor control. Children may hesitate or stumble on steps, escalators, or when the ground is uneven and visibility is poor. They may appear awkward and noisy when running, experience falls, collisions or accidents frequently, find tasks such as swimming, dance, or riding a bike difficult to learn. Activities of daily living such as tying shoelaces may be difficult and they may often spill food when eating. Children may also have perception problems related to coordination in space, for example have difficulty understanding how to draw, write and read, or misjudging body positions and the location of body parts in space. DAMP symptoms experienced vary significantly from one individual to another.
Parents may observe some attention difficulties. Children may have difficulty being still and concentrating. Activities and tasks may consistently remain unfinished. Despite a desire to do it (sometimes), they may have considerable difficulty completing homework, especially if they are in an even slightly distracting environment (such as if a sibling is entering or leaving the room or a TV is on in the background). They may appear uncomfortable when sitting and prefer slouching or lying down to do academic tasks.
The Child’s Experience / Symptoms
They may experience receptive communication difficulties such as having poor social understanding and difficulty appreciating the thoughts and feelings of others. They can have trouble making sense of what they hear and also have poor comprehension of written materials when reading.
Children may have expressive communication difficulties. They may internally know what they want to say, on the level of ‘feeling’ however have significant difficulty putting this in words verbally in order to clearly express themselves. They may have difficulty with emotional control and some may also have stuttering difficulties related to this. The modulation of voice volume and pitch may also be affected. Children require encouragement, understanding and emotional support as they navigate life with DAMP.
Known causes and incidence
There is no known cause for DAMP. Studies indicate that certain areas in the brain (frontal cortex) responsible for attention, monitoring behaviour, and planning, takes longer to mature in these children. The role of the cerebellum in DAMP has not yet been investigated.
Five percent of seven year olds may have DAMP according to this press release by the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists. According to Swedish studies, 3-6% of all 7 year olds have some form of DAMP. More boys than girls have been diagnosed with DAMP.