Global Developmental Delay (GDD)

Picture of Renee Collins

Renee Collins

Clinical Director

Global Developmental Delay (GDD)

What is GDD?

Global developmental delay (GDD) is a broad diagnosis for children under the age of 5 who exhibit a delay in two or more developmental domains. Sometimes the terms ‘developmental delay’ and ‘global developmental delay’ are used interchangeably.

These developmental domains includes :

  • Cognitive skills: the ability to think, learn, and deal with problems
  • Speech and language skills: The ability to use, communicate, and understand
  • Language
  • 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)
GDD affects about 3% of children. Diagnosis is guided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th edn (DSM-5-TR) and is usually done by a paediatrician or psychologist.

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 two areas. Developmental delays can occur in just a single domain

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. Not all children with developmental delay will have a developmental disability. Developmental delays can be short term, such as during a phase of prolonged illness, or persistent.

Causes of GDD

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

Intervention Options for GDD

Early intervention is important for GDD, as it can provide support and therapies that can significantly improve a child’s development and long-term outcomes. Early intervention may involve a combination of therapies, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy. These therapies focus on improving communication, social interaction, and adaptive skills, while also addressing challenging behaviours. Super Kids Behavioural Consulting provides individualised programs for children with GDD to help them develop new skills and overcome common barriers.

Where to go from here?

0422 457 363

9/56 Buffalo Rd, Gladesville NSW , 2111

0422 457 363

9/56 Buffalo Rd, Gladesville NSW , 2111

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.