Children who are slow to develop in a number of areas may have global development delay. It can be overcome unless there are serious underlying problems.
Every child develops at a different rate and many parents worry that their child might not be developing normally. The three main areas of global development delay are in cognitive, motor, and speech skills. This delay may occur in infancy or may not be noticed until the child begins school. There are many different causes of global development delay and not all of them are permanent. Although some children with autism have delayed development, it does not mean that they have global development delay. With early intervention and support from their parents many children can overcome global developmental delay.
What is Global Development Delay?
Global Development Delay (GDD) is the term used for a generalised delay in development. There are three common areas of developmental delay:
1. Cognitive delay is when the child’s intellectual development is slower than others. They may have difficulties in learning, but also in memory or reasoning. Parents often do not become aware of this until their child starts school.
2. Motor delay. There are two types of motor skills: fine and gross. Gross motor skills are necessary for movements like running or climbing stairs. Fine motor skills require small movements such as holding a crayon or drawing. If the child has developmental delay in this areas, they are unable to co-ordinate their muscles, so they may not achieve some developmental milestones, such as rolling or walking. They may also appear to be clumsy and have trouble managing steps or uneven ground.
3. Speech and language delay may mean that the child has difficulty understanding speech or they may have difficulty in expressing themselves.
Read What you Need to Know About Developmental Delay1 on Healthline to learn more about GDD.
What causes Global Developmental Delay?
GDD can be caused by a number of factors. It could be caused by infection or complications during pregnancy or childbirth and it may be found in premature babies. Genetic disorders such as Down syndrome are a common cause of GDD. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have GDD.
What are the signs and symptoms of Global Development Delay?
Every child develops at a different rate, with some being slower than others. Children with GDD show significant delays in achieving developmental milestones with the child lagging behind their peers by 6 months or more. The signs and symptoms of GDD are:
· The child is unable to achieve motor milestones such as neck control, sitting, crawling, and walking.
· The child is late in reaching speech and language milestones, such as babbling or speaking their first word.
· Lack of social and emotional maturity2 Children may find it difficult to express their thoughts and emotions or to form a bond with others.
· Children with cognitive difficulties may have a poor memory or reasoning abilities.
· Problems with vision and hearing
· The child may not be able to manage every day tasks like eating by themselves or following instructions.
Is Global Development Delay a form of autism?
While GDD is present in many children who are autistic, it is not in itself a form of autism. In fact, some children with ASD reach early developmental milestones on time or early, but then fail to reach others. Some children may appear to gain important skills but be unable to use them and still others may be very advanced in skills which are not practical for day to day living. It has also been shown that some high functioning autistic children, especially girls, are able to hide some developmental delays. It is also possible that a child with ASD will also have GDD. Infants with ASD may fail to meet expected developmental milestones such as the development of language with babbling or reacting to their names. They may show less social development and speech may be delayed. The combination of the delays along with the severity of the delay may mean that a child with ASD also has GDD. For more information about autism, see What is autism?3.
What age does Global Development Delay usually present?
There are many different developmental milestones starting at as early as 2 months. While every child is different, and parents should use their own judgement if they feel that there is a problem. For more information about GDD and when parents should seek help, see Developmental Delays4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA give a detailed description of developmental milestones from 2 months to 5 years5. It is generally thought that a child has GDD when the child has delays in several developmental areas and it has continued for 6 months. This means that GDD can present in some children at around 12 months, but could be identified at any time up until about the age of 5.
Can a child outgrow Global Development Delay?
Because children develop at different rates, the age that is given for each milestone is just an average. Some children will be faster and others will be slower. Read this article on developmental delay6 from the South Australian Government to learn some of the ways that parents can help their children to achieve the various milestones.
Being slower than average to develop does not necessarily mean that the child will not catch up. With therapy and support from parents, it may be possible for the child to outgrow GDD. When there is an underlying problem, it will be necessary for some kind of intervention. In some cases, it will not be possible for a child to outgrow GDD although there may be significant improvement.
Is Global Development Delay considered a disability?
A disability is a condition which prevents people from fully participating in every day activities. Disabilities are usually long term. GDD is not always a disability since it is not necessarily permanent. When the developmental delays are persistent, they are called developmental disabilities and are often a sign of a more serious condition such as cerebral palsy or of developmental disorders such as autism, intellectual disability or hearing impairment. Read more about the difference between GDD and disability here7.
How can I support my child with Global Development Delay?
As soon as a parent becomes aware of developmental delay, it is important to seek help. There are a number of treatments which are available to support a child with GDD and early intervention is more likely to be successful. For more details about the kind of treatment that is available, read Treating Children with Global Developmental Delay8 on the Nurture Pods website. In addition to professional treatment, there are a lot of things that parents can do to support their child who has GDD. The Understood website looks at 3 Things to Do to Help Your Child With Developmental Delays9
Parents whose children are slow to meet development milestones may have global development delay. Global development delay may present itself in infancy as the baby fails to meet early developmental milestones, but for other children it does not become obvious until they begin school. Parents are usually the first to realise that there is an issue, and it is important for parents to seek help if they feel that there is something wrong. Global development delay has many causes and may be a sign that there is a more serious underlying problem. Unfortunately, if the child has certain serious disorders, they may not be able to develop normally, but many children can continue to develop with professional treatment.
1. ‘What You Need to Know About Developmental Delay’. Healthline. Published December 19, 2018. Accessed online at https://www.healthline.com/health/developmental-delay#motor-skills on 20 Sep 2022.
2. ‘Domain Guide: Emotional Maturity’. Australian Early Development Census. Published 2018. Accessed online at https://www.education.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/aedc-sa-domain-guide-emotional-maturity.pdf on 16 Sep, 2022.
3. ‘What is autism?’. Autism Spectrum Australia. Accessed online at https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/about-autism on 16 Sep, 2022.
4. ‘What are Developmental Delays?’. Epidemic Answers. Accessed online at https://epidemicanswers.org/symptoms_and_diagnoses/developmental-delays/ on 16 Sep, 2022.
5. ‘Milestones’. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html on 16 Sep, 2022.
6. ‘Parent Easy Guide 59 : Developmental Delay’. Parenting SA. Accessed online at https://parenting.sa.gov.au/pegs/PEG59-Developmental-delay.pdf on 16 Sep, 2022.
7. ‘Understanding the Difference Between global Development Delay and Disability’. Mind Champs Allied Care. Accessed online at https://www.mindchamps-alliedcare.com/post/understanding-the-difference-between-global-developmental-delay-and-disability on 18 Sep, 2022.
8. ‘Treating Children with Global Developmental Delay. Nurture Pods. Accessed online at https://www.nurturepods.com/treating-children-with-global-developmental-delay/ on 16 Sep, 2022.
9. ‘3 Things to Do to Help Your Child With Developmental Delays. Amanda Morin. Understood. Accessed online at https://www.understood.org/en/articles/3-ways-to-help-child-with-developmental-delays on 20 Sep, 2022.
‘Signs and Symptoms of Developmental Delay’ . Daffodil Health. Accessed online at https://www.daffodilhealth.com/developmental-delay/b.-signs-and-symptoms-of-global-developmental-delay on 16 Sep, 2022.
‘Developmental Delay and Intellectual Disability’. The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. Accessed online at https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/find-a-service/health-medical-services/developmental-delay-and-intellectual-disability/ on 15 Sep, 2022.
‘What is Global Developmental Delay? Cpl. Accessed online at https://www.cpl.org.au/resources/understanding-disability/what-is-global-developmental-delay on 18 Sep, 2022.
‘What is global Developmental Disorder?’. Amy Marschall. Published May 26, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-global-developmental-delay-5271570 on 18 Sep, 2022.
‘Understanding Global Developmental Delay in Children. Lucinda Downey. Published August 14, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.wonderbaby.org/articles/global-developmental-delay on 20 Sep, 2022.