GDD is a broad term used to describe all significant delays that might impede a child from communicating, learning and interacting with the wider world. Most of the time though, it is often observed in special needs children and this can lead to erroneous conclusions about what causes delays.
While it is true that children with autism, Down syndrome or other neurological difficulties will experience delays, these are not necessarily the only way they can happen. The environment still plays a factor in delays, even if a child was born relatively healthy and diagnosed as having no serious issues.
Experts generally classify these external factors as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). They have been the subject of much research for quite some time, and you may have heard of the term if you are working with families living in very difficult situations.
ACEs encompass a good number of negative experiences that usually result in childhood trauma and problematic behaviour. But because they have such a strong, psychological element to them, it’s not immediately evident that they create problems in the brain that result in GDD.
But in recent years, more and more evidence of ACE-induced brain changes have been put forward. This is a big deal! Because if you find yourself with a child undergoing such experiences and then start observing delays, it is proof that it’s not all in your head.
The brain of a child has a high degree of neuroplasticity. This has been the best explanation for why childhood memories, associations and lessons stick with us for so long. Why shouldn’t it be different with trauma and developmental delays?
It also means you have every right to seek out immediate help so that early intervention can keep the delay from getting worse. Here’s just a quick list of ACEs that have been linked to greater risks of GDD.
Families that have experienced some form of abuse will likely cause problems in the development of emotional regulation as well as social interaction. There’s more than enough evidence indicating how children from troubled homes perform more poorly in school, and have difficulty engaging in healthy relationships with others.
Families with a history of financial difficulties and lack of stability are also likely to create environments that are not healthy for development. These can be the results of both parents working to make ends meet, therefore risking neglect. It can also be from the high amount of stress in the household that also complicates the emotional development of the children.
3. Mental Illness
Lastly, there is the risk that comes when a parent or other older members of the family are suffering from mental illness. These include depression, schizophrenia, dissociative personality disorder and many others. The behavioural difficulties and challenges of afflicted members may result in ACEs if they are not given support and the children are not sufficiently protected from the danger they pose.
Again, it bears repeating that when people say children’s minds are impressionable, it is more literal than it sounds. The scars left by traumatic childhood experiences are indeed physical as far as the brain’s very structure is concerned. And if these distorted structures remain unaddressed, delays are sure to follow.
If you need any advice or support, then know that we at the Australian Tomatis Method are still here to help you. Please reach out if you need to, either by email at email@example.com or by phone to Francoise at 0414 444 915.