Global developmental delay is a broad diagnosis for children under the age of 5 who exhibit delays across a range of developmental milestones. This includes delays in:
Cognitive skills: the ability to think, learn, and deal with problems
Speech and language skills: The ability to use, communicate, and understand
Fine and gross motor skills: The ability to use small and large muscles in the body
Social and emotional skills: The ability to express, connect, and relate to other people
Daily living activities: The ability to handle daily tasks (i.e. dressing, eating, hygiene)
It is important to note that every child will develop differently and meeting developmental milestones is a complex process. For example, some children will crawl later than expected, but walk faster than expected. It is important to recognize individual differences are common, and global developmental delay is only diagnosed when a child is performing substantially below average across more than one area.
Usually health professionals use the term ‘developmental delay’ until they can work out what’s causing the delay and usually up until the age of 5 years. If and when they find the cause, they’ll use a term that better explains the child’s condition. This may include a learning disability, intellectual disability or cerebral palsy.
There is no single cause of GDD but there are several factors that increase the risk of GDD, such as:
Genetic Disorders: Problems caused by the errors or changes in a person’s genes, for example, Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome
Prenatal complications: Fetal alcohol syndrome, premature birth, low birth weight and trouble getting oxygen
Environmental issues: Poor nutrition, alcohol and drug exposure before and during
birth, violent family environment, trauma
Medical conditions: Illnesses, chronic ear infections, vision problems, injuries with long-term effect
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is often helpful for children with delays in gross motor skills.
Occupational Therapy: This can address fine motor skills, sensory processing, and self-help issues.
Speech and Language Therapy: Typically used to address problems in the areas of understanding and producing language and speech sounds.
Early Childhood Special Education: This provides stimulation for early developmental skills, including play skills.
Behavioural therapy: This may be needed in some children for behavioural difficulties that affect socially appropriate behaviours.
Below are some helpful resources on GDD and therapy options:
Super Kids acknowledges each individual’s personal preference to use identity-first or person-first language to describe themselves or their loved one. We interchangeably use both language conventions and therefore refer to both autistic children and children with autism.