All you need to know about Global Developmental Delay (GDD)
All children acquire skills and develop at their own pace. Some children crawl earlier than average, but walk later than average, or skip crawling altogether and walk first. It is important to keep in mind that development is a complex process and not all children develop skills on a strict timetable. Sometimes children may develop quickly for a while, and then it will be followed by a period when they develop no further or even slip back a little. But Global Developmental Delay often referred to simply as GDD, is more than being “a little behind” in an area of development. Usually, minor or temporary delays in meeting developmental milestones are no cause of worry. The term global development delay is used when a child takes longer to reach certain developmental milestones in multiple skill areas than other children at the same age. This can include skills like learning to walk and talk, gross and fine motor skills, and interacting with others socially.
Signs of Global Developmental Delay
Children develop skills in five main areas of development, which include cognitive skills, social and emotional skills, speech and emotional skills, fine and gross motor skills which help in performing daily living activities needed to live a functional and independent life. Minor differences in reaching developmental milestones for these skills is not really a cause for concern. For instance, a baby who isn’t rolling over by 4-5 months maybe a little behind in that skill. But babies at that age who aren’t rolling over, can’t hold their heads up, and aren’t babbling, are behind in more than one area of development. This could be a sign of a global developmental delay, which is said to occur when children display delays in at least two areas of skill development.
You can compare your child’s development to the following list of development milestones and by what age they should be met if you suspect there might be a problem. But the presence of a global developmental delay can only be confirmed after consultation with a child specialist or pediatrician.
By 3 to 4 months, your child should:
● respond to loud noises
● babble and try to imitate sounds (by 4 months)
By 7 months, your child should:
● respond to sounds
By 1 year, your child should:
● be using simple words (like “mama”)
By 2 years, your child should:
● be able to speak at least 15 words
● use two-word phrases without repetition and not just imitate speech
● use speech to communicate more than their immediate needs
Children progress at varied paces when it comes to gross motor and fine motor skill development, but most children can lift their head by 3 months old, sit with a little support by 6 months, and walk well before their second birthday. By about age 5, most children can stand on one foot for 10 seconds or longer and can eat with a spoon. For speech and language skills, the learning process begins when an infant communicates hunger by crying. By about 6 months old, most infants can recognize loud sounds. At around 12-15 months old, infants should be able to say two to three simple words, even if they aren’t quite clear. Most toddlers can speak several words by the time they are around 18 months old. By the age of 3, most children can string along words to form a coherent sentence. Falling somewhat outside the ‘normal range’ isn’t always a big deal, but if your child is unable to perform tasks within the expected time frame, it would be wise to consult a child specialist or psychologist and get a professional opinion.
Causes of Global Developmental Delay
Most parents or caregivers tend to worry that their child’s developmental delays are a result of their faults or shortcomings in parenting. Firstly, it is difficult to trace the exact cause for global developmental delay and sometimes they indicate an underlying condition that only qualified child professionals can diagnose, and secondly, they are more often than not caused by things beyond your control. There is no one single cause of global developmental delay, but here are some possible causes to consider:
● Complications at birth: Premature birth; low birth weight; not getting enough oxygen at birth, problems in pregnancy such as heavy bleeding, an infection such as rubella or the mother having excess alcohol or drugs
● Environmental issues: Lead poisoning; poor nutrition; exposure to alcohol or drugs before birth; difficult family situations; trauma, physical abuse or near-drowning
● Other medical conditions: Chronic ear infections; vision problems; illnesses, conditions, or injuries that have a significant and long-term effect on a child’s day-to-day activities
Treatment of Global Developmental Delay
It can be nerve-racking to see or hear about other kids passing milestones before your child does. And even though causes of delays can be hard to pinpoint, there are many treatments and support services available to manage global developmental delays. It’s important to remember that the sooner you can diagnose a delay, the better it will be for your child’s development into adulthood, so consult a child specialist if you suspect that your child may be showing symptoms of GDD. Treatments for global developmental delays vary according to the delay observed in specific areas of skill development. The treatment plan may include physical or occupational therapy for help in motor skill delays and speech-language therapy for help with speech delays, and the like. Even when it’s not clear what’s causing the delay, early detection and intervention is important in helping kids develop skills.