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Charity No. 1144208

"Because special people need to be taught in a special way"

Global Developmental Delay (GDD)

What is it?

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 functioning than what is perceived as ‘normal’. It is usually accompanied by having significant limitations in communication. It is said to affect about 1-3% of the population.

What are the causes of Global Developmental Delay?

The most common causes of GDD are chromosomal and/or genetic abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome or abnormalities with the structure or development of the brain or spinal cord such as Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida.
Other causes can include prematurity – being born too early – or infections, such as Congenital Rubella or Meningitis.
There are a number of diagnostic tests that can be done to identify the underlying cause of GDD. Sometimes these causes can be treated to cure the developmental delay, or at least to prevent it worsening. However, often the cause is never able to be fully determined.


  • The child is unable to sit on the floor without support by 8 months;
  • The child is unable to crawl by 12 months;
  • The child has poor social skills/ judgment;
  • The child is unable to roll over by 6 months;
  • The child has communication problems
  • The child has fine/ gross motor difficulties
  • The child shows aggressive behaviour as a coping skill
  • In some children GDD is suspected soon after birth because of feeding difficulties or muscle-tone. In others it is suspected later when learning or behaviour difficulties occur at school.

    Parent’s tips

    Be gentle!! Patient! Work closely with professionals including teachers to give your child the best support possible.

    Teacher’s tips

    While every child will grow at their own, individual rate, teachers are expected to recognize and work with children who have developmental delays. A developmental delay can occur in several different stages of development. Some developmental delays may not even be recognizable at first — there aren’t always telltale, straightforward signs. One of many jobs a teacher has is to watch their students closely for any underlying causes of poor development.

    Language Delays

    Often, preschool-aged children who don’t speak much, use full sentences or respond to questions that ask “who,” “what,” “why” or “where” will be pegged as having a developmental problem. A preschooler should be able to have a conversation and answer the “W” questions; an eight-exchanges conversation is normal for this age. However, there are a few different reasons for language delay, and it’s important to determine which one is occurring. Some children may not know how to express themselves; they could have a hard time understanding what the teacher is saying; or they may be responding to the teacher but not speaking clearly. Also, children who are learning more than one language may have a difficult time communicating.
    Global Delays
    Teachers should know that a child can exhibit more than one type of delay. If delays occur in several areas, including speech, vision, movement, emotion, social skills or cognitive abilities, the child may have a global delay. The cause of this type of delay could be a genetic defect, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome or a medical problem due to prematurity at birth.


    There are times when a teacher will need to speak with parents about having their child evaluated. Evaluations determine why a child isn’t meeting the developmental stages they should be, or why they’re not doing well in school overall. While the teacher won’t directly perform the evaluation, she should still know basics when preparing the child. Children should be allowed to stay with their parents during the evaluation — separation leads to anxiety and inaccurate results. Formal, standardized tests are not a good measure for young children; evaluations are supposed to take a look at every child’s unique capabilities. Also, a full evaluation includes watching how the child interacts with his parents, not just his cognitive and motor skills.
    It’s not always necessary to call in the professionals to deal with a child who has a developmental delay. Often, the teacher can work with the child and practice in order to bring her up to speed. Children who struggle with motor skills will benefit from regularly throwing and catching a large, soft ball. A child who has problems with spatial thinking may improve with regular hide-and-seek or treasure hunt games. Sensory delays can be helped by letting the child control his sensory environment. Letting a child play with a dimmer switch to lower or brighten lights, or asking a child to run, alternating between fast and slow, will let the child experience different sensations in a controlled way.