Judith Gentle

Dr Judith Gentle

Senior lecturer in Psychology
PhD; MRes; BSc (Hons); FHEA
+44 (0)1483 686933
05 AC 05
Student consultation Tuesdays 12-2pm; Personal tutor hour Tuesdays 3-4pm (Teams)


Areas of specialism

Developmental Coordination Disorder/Dyspraxia

University roles and responsibilities

  • Director of Motor Development and Impact (MoDI) Lab


    Research interests

    Research projects

    Research collaborations


    Postgraduate research supervision

    Postgraduate research supervision



    Gentle, J., Shaheen, A., Tunstall, D., Hegarty, P. (2020) Perceptions of Coordinated Movement


    Background: Humans are highly social creatures who use others’ movements to evaluate their social competencies. Smooth movement specifically signals an attractive, trustworthy or competent person. Those with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), have peer relationship difficulties and lower sociometric preference scores. However, the relationship of perception of poor movement coordination to stereotyping has not been directly demonstrated.

    Aim: We aimed to describe typically developing individuals’ social stereotyping of individuals with and without DCD from minimal visual cues.

    Method: 3D motion capture tracked the movement of four ‘targets’ (two adult males with DCD and two male controls) in a variety of everyday scenarios. Kinematic footage of the target’s movements was presented as a point-light-display to 319 typically developing adults who used The Rating Scale of Social Competence to report perceptions of the target’s social competencies.

    Results: Targets with DCD were rated as having significantly lower social competence (M=3.37, SD=0.93) than controls (M=3.46, SD=0.89) t(269) =-5.656; p < 0.001, Cohen’s d = .34.

    Discussion: Humans incorporate minimal information on movement fluency to evaluate others’ social competencies, including individuals with DCD. Such stereotyping may be automatic and may be an ill-understood mechanism sustaining persistent rejection by peers for individuals with DCD and higher rates of loneliness, isolation and mental disorders. In addition, our study expands research on competence-based stereotyping to a new applied domain, confirming the minimal cues needed to initiate stereotyping of the competencies of others.

    Keywords: social competence, perception, coordinated movement, stereotyping, DCD

    Gentle, J, Barnett, A, Wilmut, K (2016) Adaptations to walking on an uneven terrain for individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder

    Given the importance of walking in everyday life, understanding why this is challenging for some populations is particularly important. Studies focusing on gait patterns of individuals with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) have shown that whilst increased variability is characteristic of walking patterns for this group, differences in spatio-temporal gait variables seem only to arise when task demands increase. However, these differences occur under rather artificial conditions, for example using a treadmill. The aim of this study, therefore was to examine the step characteristics of individuals with and without
    DCD whilst walking along an irregular terrain. Thirty-five individuals with DCD aged 8–32 years and 35 age and gender-matched controls participated in this study. Participants were divided into 3 age groups; 8–12 years (n = 12), 13–17 years (n = 12) and 18–32 years (n = 11). Participants walked up and down a 6 m walkway for two minutes on two terrains: level and irregular. VICON 3D motion analysis was used to extract measures of foot placement, velocity and angle of the head and trunk. Results showed that both groups adapted their gait to negotiate the irregular terrain, but the DCD group was more affected than their TD peers; walking significantly slower with shorter, wider steps and inclining their head more towards the ground. This suggests an adaptive approach used by individuals with DCD to preserve stability and increase visual sampling whilst negotiating an irregular terrain.

    Wilmut, K., Gentle, J., Barnett, A. (2017) Gait symmetry in individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder

    Background: Symmetry between the left and right side of the body during locomotion is key in a coordinated gait cycle and is also thought to be important in terms of efficiency. Although previous studies have identified aspects of the gait cycle which are atypical in children and adults with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), studies have not considered whether this could be explained by asymmetrical gait. Method and procedure: The current study included 62 participants with and 62 without DCD (aged 7-34 years). Participants were asked to walk continuously for 1 minute up and down a walkway while movement was captured using an optical tracking system. Measures of step length and step time were taken for both the right and the left leg and symmetry ratios were calculated. Results: The DCD group showed significantly higher symmetry ratios for both measures compared to the typically developing (TD) group, with approximately a third of DCD participants falling outside the normative range for symmetry. Furthermore, a relationship was found between movement variability and degree of asymmetry. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate an asymmetry in the gait of individuals with DCD which, despite improving with age, does not reach the same level as that shown by TD individuals.

    Gentle, J., Brady, D., Woodger, N., Croston, S., Leonard, H. (2021) Driving Skills of Individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia). Frontiers of Human Neuroscience

    Learning to drive is a significant event for the transition to adulthood and delay or avoidance may have social, practical and psychological implications. For those with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia), driving presents a considerable challenge and the literature shows that there are differences in driving ability between individuals with and without DCD. The aim of the current research is to further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the driving experiences of individuals with DCD. Nineteen participants with DCD (10 drivers, 9 non-drivers) and 36 controls (17 drivers, 19 non-drivers) aged 18-57 years took part in this study. Participants completed standardised tests, questionnaires and a driving simulation task designed to measure speed, road positioning and rate of change of steering in three conditions with increasing perceptual complexity. Results indicate that behaviours for all participants changed as the perceptual demands of the task increased. However, drivers with DCD were more affected than all other groups, driving more slowly when negotiating a narrow aperture, and driving further to the right when passing an oncoming car. These findings illustrate how the impact of both internal and external constraints negatively affect the success of the driving task for individuals with DCD compared to their TD peers.

    Mayes, W., Gentle, J., Parisi I., Dixon L., van Velzen José, Violante, I (2021) Top-down Inhibitory Motor Control Is Preserved in Adults with Developmental Coordination Disorder

    Two paradigms were employed to disentangle information processing from executive motor inhibition in adults with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Choice Reaction and Stop Signal Tasks were compared between 13 adults fulfilling DSM-5 DCD criteria and 42 typically developing adults. Additional analyses included 16 probable DCD (pDCD) participants, who had motor difficulties but did not fulfil DSM-5 criteria. Analyses employed frequentist and Bayesian modeling. While DCD+pDCD showed slower reaction times and difficulty initiating Go responses, no impairments in Stop actions were found. These findings indicated no executive deficit in DCD, suggesting that previous results may be explained by inefficient information processing.

    Morris, B., Ogden, J., Gentle, J. (2021) Experiences of adult siblings of those with developmental coordination disorder (DCD): a qualitative study

    This qualitative study explored the childhood experiences of growing up with a sibling with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) to offer an ‘outsider’s’ view of this condition. Ten individuals who had grown up with a sibling with DCD were interviewed about their experiences. Data were analysed using Thematic Analysis. Analysis described three main themes: i)‘witnessing the challenges for their sibling with DCD’ ii) ‘experiencing the impact on the family’; iii) ‘a vacuum of knowledge’. Not all experiences were negative and transcending these themes was the notion ‘resolution and finding benefit’ highlighting access to support, being more empathic and resilient, becoming a role model for others and finding success. Participants play witness to their sibling’s experiences which can often be negative sometimes impacted by a vacuum of knowledge but they also describe how a diagnosis of DCD comes with some benefits which are discussed in the context of ‘posttraumatic growth’.

    Mayes, W and Gentle, J. (2021) What is developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD): A brief summary of key research

    Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as Dyspraxia, is a neurodevelopmental disorder identified primarily by difficulties with physical coordination. DCD has an estimated prevalence rate of 5-6%, meaning that at least one child in every class of 30 is likely to be affected (APA, 2013). DCD has an early age of onset and can result in delayed movement milestones such as learning to dress oneself or handle cutlery (Summers, Larkin & Dewey, 2008).

    J Gentle, A Shakur, M Ivanova, K Gilligan-Lee (2024) Navigation abilities and spatial anxiety in individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia)

    Background: Navigation skills are essential for independent living as they allow us to explore our environment; find our way to new locations, refine pathways to familiar locations and retrace our route home. Alongside motor coordination difficulties, there is evidence that individuals with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) experience spatial processing difficulties, which are known to negatively affect navigation abilities. However, although self-reports indicate that adults with DCD have difficulties with sense of direction and navigation, no known studies have measured navigation abilities and strategies in adults with DCD. Furthermore, given evidence that individuals with DCD report higher levels of anxiety, we will additionally investigate associations between anxiety and navigation in this group. Aims: This study compares navigation abilities, navigation strategies and spatial anxiety in adults with and without DCD. Methods: Participants include 226 Adults aged 18–55 years, across two groups 1) DCD (N = 138, 111 F:25 M; 2:Other) 2); Typically Developing (N = 88, 77 F: 11 M). In this cross-sectional study, participants completed a series of tasks on the online Qualtrics platform. This included the Adult Developmental Coordination Disorder Checklist, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Wayfinding Anxiety Measure, the Wayfinding Questionnaire, the Wayfinding Strategy Questionnaire, and a navigation task. Results: Our analysis shows that 1) compared to those with typical development, individuals with DCD have similar navigation performance but lower navigation and orientation scores, and distance estimation scores. 2) Movement co-ordination difficulties were only a significant predictor of landmark recognition and egocentric path route knowledge, and played no role for other aspects of navigation performance. 3) For wayfinding strategy use the DCD group used orientation strategies significantly less often than those with typical development, however there was no group difference in the use of route strategies. 4) The DCD group had significantly higher spatial anxiety scores across navigation, manipulation and imagery spatial sub-domains, even after controlling for general anxiety. 5) Spatial navigation anxiety was a significant predictor of navigational skill for all three wayfinding measures (navigation & orientation, distance estimation and spatial anxiety). Conclusions: The findings establish benchmarks of navigational skills in DCD and highlight spatial anxiety and route strategies as factors that may inhibit navigation success and could help specify suitable intervention targets.

    WP Mayes, J Gentle, M Ivanova, IR Violante (2024) Audio-visual multisensory integration and haptic perception are altered in adults with developmental coordination disorder

    Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a movement disorder in which atypical sensory processing may underly movement atypicality. However, whether altered sensory processing is domain-specific or global in nature, are unanswered questions. Here, we measured for the first time, different aspects of sensory processing and spatiotemporal integration in the same cohort of adult participants with DCD (N = 16), possible DCD (pDCD, N = 12) and neurotypical adults (NT, N = 28). Haptic perception was reduced in both DCD and the extended DCD + pDCD groups when compared to NT adults. Audio-visual integration, measured using the sound-induced double flash illusion, was reduced only in DCD participants, and not the DCD + pDCD extended group. While low-level sensory processing was altered in DCD, the more cognitive, higher-level ability to infer temporal dimensions from spatial information, and vice-versa, as assessed with Tau-Kappa effects, was intact in DCD (and extended DCD + pDCD) participants. Both audio-visual integration and haptic perception difficulties correlated with the degree of self-reported DCD symptoms and were most apparent when comparing DCD and NT groups directly, instead of the expanded DCD + pDCD group. The association of sensory difficulties with DCD symptoms suggests that perceptual differences play a role in motor difficulties in DCD via an underlying internal modelling mechanism.

    C. Sinani, K. Wilmut, M. Mierzwinski, J. Williams, M. Licari, C. Purcell, J. Gentle, G. Wood (2023) The Impact of Developmental Coordination Disorder in the UK. In: DCD-UK 2023
    Topor, M., Gentle, J. (2022) “Through the lens of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD): experiences of a late diagnosis”

    A late diagnosis of a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition has been shown to be an important life event with implications for well-being and life outcomes. Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) is a common, yet little known neurodevelopmental disorder but, as our knowledge expands, it is clear that many individuals with DCD are not being diagnosed until late adulthood (i.e., after 30 yrs). However, there is a paucity of research investigating the experiences of individuals with DCD who only received their diagnoses in later adulthood. Adults and older adults with DCD have expressed a need for more research that will help to understand their positions and subsequently, lead to the development of appropriate support. Therefore, the aim of the study is to answer the following research questions: What is the emotional reaction surrounding the moment of receiving a late DCD diagnosis and the aftermath? How does self-concept change alongside the emotional consequences of a late DCD diagnosis and what impact does this have on one’s perception of the past, present, and future? The study will consist of semi-structured interviews with up to 15 individuals who received a diagnosis of DCD aged 30 years or later. Interviews will be analysed using thematic analysis.