Global Learning Delay

Global Developmental Delay (GDD) is the general term used to describe a condition that occurs during the developmental period of a child between birth and 18 years. It is usually defined by the child being diagnosed with having a lower intellectual and functioning skills than what is perceived as generally ‘normal’. It can also be accompanied by having significant limitations in communication skills. It is estimated to affect about 1-3% of the population.

It goes without saying this ‘diagnosis’ is probably the most frustrating for many parents and educators as it means our children simply ‘do not fit in a box’! It is also the most common of reasons given out by medical professionals as so many children have such a ‘mixed bag’ of needs.  There is no doubt you have already researched GDD to death and realised that many of the symptoms your child displays can cross over into other diagnosis. Again this is why it is an umbrella term. Your child might simply be a late talker, walker, eater, toileter etc. They many catch up, but then they might also have more pressing needs such as seizures, health problems, lack of communication etc.

What is it?

Global Developmental Delay is a coverall term for conditions where there are several developmental problems. The problems typically include lower than average intellectual functioning and delayed achievement of physical milestones (like sitting or walking). It is often associated with poor social skills and difficulties with communication.  Generally, children with GDD don’t pick things up as easily as their peers.

What causes it?

Anything that affects the development of the central nervous system can cause Global Developmental Delay. Causes may be genetic, a problem in the pregnancy, or even a childhood injury or infection.

One of the better known causes is the Fragile X syndrome, which is where a problem with the X chromosome interferes with producing a protein critical for neural development.

Treatment considerations

As always the treatment will depend on the specific needs of the individual, but commonly a mix of therapies can help. Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy help with gross and fine motor skills. Speech-Language Therapy helps with communication skills. Behaviour Therapy and Music Therapy can help with social and emotional functioning.

Developmental considerations

As the name suggests Global Developmental Delay can have a wide range of effects on functioning, so it is important to learn all of the specific issues facing your child.

Looking down the road

Global Developmental Delay is not generally a progressive condition, so it does not get worse. Some children catch up to peers however parents should be prepared for the fact that some disabilities may persist throughout life. Many children with Global Developmental Delay grow up to be independent adults, some need a bit of support and in more severe cases they may require more extensive support.

Sen4help: Resources Directory

British Institute for Learning Disabilities

Charity for learning disabilities

National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN)

Organisation for the education and training of those with SEN

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