Understanding Global Developmental Delay (GDD) in children

 

Babies and children usually learn important skills such as sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking, babbling (making basic speech sounds), talking and becoming toilet trained as they grow up. A child with Developmental Delay may not reach one or more of these milestones until much later than expected.

 

What is Global Developmental Delay?

The term Developmental Delay or Global Development Delay is used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age. This might include learning to walk or talk, movement skills, learning new things and interacting with others socially and emotionally.

 

What are the signs to look for in children?

Parents normally come to know of it after their child is born. This could be due to a problem that developed before birth, a problem during birth (for example, if the baby did not get enough oxygen, or was born too early), a childhood illness or a physical accident during early childhood.

 

When is a child diagnosed with GDD?

As they grow, children’s developments will be assessed regularly and if they aren’t meeting the expected development milestones and levels of abilities, they may be referred for further more specialist assessment.

 

What should parents do?

Contact your child’s doctor if your child has any of the following signs at the age that’s indicated. In addition, watch for any loss of skills that have already been learned.

By 3 to 4 months, contact the doctor if your child:

  • does not respond to loud noises
  • does not babble
  • begins babbling but does not try to imitate sounds (by 4 months)

By 7 months, contact the doctor if your child:

  • does not respond to sounds

By 1 year, contact the doctor if your child:

  • does not use any single words (like “mama”)

By 2 years, contact the doctor if your child:

  • cannot speak at least 15 words
  • does not use two-word phrases without repetition; can only imitate speech
  • does not use speech to communicate more than immediate needs

 

What is the medication for treating GDD?

It is likely a paediatrician will see your child, and if they suspect GDD they may ask questions regarding the child’s progress. They may look at a child’s development and carry out medical tests to try to identify a cause for the developmental difficulties. Some families will be referred to a genetics service to see if there is a genetic cause for the difficulty.  Some children may be referred to further specialists such as psychologists, speech and language therapists or occupational therapists for further evaluations.

 

How can GDD-affected children be treated?

Some children will require additional support to allow them to catch up with other children. Support may be with speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy or other methods of support. Special educational input is a common and useful support. Your doctor or paediatrician will be able to discuss the type of support that is right for your child and how to go about getting it. Children and young people with Generalised Developmental Delay experience higher rates of emotional and behavioural difficulties than other children, so some of them may benefit from seeing a Clinical Child Psychologist or a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

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