What Global Developmental Delay Looks Like on Australian Kids

SYDNEY, Australia — Children with Global Developmental Delay(GDD) have difficulty overall communication and socialization. As parents, it’s natural to keep up with how your child is progressing in terms of communication, behaviour, learning, or movement and all children will develop at their own pace. However, there are some children that will take longer to reach certain milestones because of developmental delay.

While developmental delay can be temporary, it can also be permanent in other children which may be a sign that they have global development delay (GDD) or another intellectual disability. Developmental delays are caused by various factors which may include birth complications, chromosomal abnormality, hearing issues, injuries, child neglect, other illnesses, and other intellectual abilities.

In Australia, there are 5% to 10% of children that are under the age of 8 that have developmental delays where boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls.  Children may experience a developmental delay in the following categories one at a time or simultaneously. When there is a delay in all of these areas, then the child’s condition is considered global developmental delay:

  • Behaviour
  • Cognition
  • Communication
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Self-help
  • Social and Emotional Skills
global developmental delay

Communication impairment may include having trouble hearing, speaking, listening, reading, socialising, understanding, writing, and using a voice which is more common than most people think[1]:

  • Every 3 in 1000 newborns have hearing loss, which can negatively affect the development of speech, language, and literacy if left unaddressed.
  • Most children diagnosed with autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Down Syndrome have communication impairment from the moment they’re born.
  • 20% of children have a hard time understanding or using language by the time they are four years old.
  • Among Australian offenders, 46% of delinquents have communication impairment.
  • Around 13,000 Australians communicate via electronic communication aids.
  • Having difficulty communicating has been associated with poor mental health

Those with communication impairments can experience anger, embarrassment, or frustration as they try to communicate what they need. It’s common to misunderstand and respond insensitively to someone with a communication impairment. Some development milestones might be:

  • Birth – 6 months: babbling
  • 7 – 11 months: communicates with actions and gestures
  • 12 months: be able to crawl and walk
Australian Girl with Global Developmental Delay

With communication impairment this prevalent, their impacts have also been extensively studied and can be mild or severe as well as temporary or permanent [2] Global developmental delay symptoms your child may showcase are:

  • have difficulty in learning and interacting in school
  • unable to understand and retain information
  • clumsy and awkward movements
  • injury prone
  • social isolation
  • often lonely

There are also other brain conditions in addition to GDD that will emphasise the need for treatment specific to a single child. For instance, auditory processing disorder (APD) can be tied to learning because 3% to 5% of children with this condition have an ear-brain disconnect and can hear sounds but don’t necessarily understand them. This doesn’t mean that communication is impossible because children with ADP have a better chance of recognising sounds in a sound-treated room which is a quieter environment.

Additionally, the development of your child’s vestibular system is crucial to their physical and emotional development. With every muscle connected to the vestibular system, it enables children to rest and play which is important in learning and communication. Having “vestibular sense” means having good balance, hand-eye coordination, having steady movements, and encouragement to self-regulate. This can also be trained via the Tomatis® Method.

What is Global Developmental Delay

Certain therapies can also help alleviate social exclusion which further negatively affects children’s development. By improving speech and language skills, children can communicate better with you and their peers. The Tomatis® Method also helps children manage their emotions and encourages regulation which will help them better understand social situations, responses, and behaviour in general.

However, some of the best ways to help your child develop speech and language can be done in the comfort of your home. To help them communicate better:

  • Talk to them, no matter how young they are! Stare into their little eyes, give them a big smile, and explain everything as you go! Tell them about their favourite toy or their upcoming snack.
  • Imitate their actions and noises! This is how they start understanding the concept of communication.
  • Make the time to listen to music, nursery rhymes or read out loud to your baby or toddler.
  • Give your child plenty of time to explore the places around your house and play with a lot of different things (they don’t even have to be the latest toy.)
  • Set them up for success. Even if they are unable to reach for a certain toy or book, let them keep trying! If they need a little help, give them a hand but let them experience success themselves to build up self-esteem and resilience.
  • Support their interests as much as you can. Let them read for an afternoon, make objects out of clay, or play some football.
  • Let them get involved with activities you like to do. If they feel as if they are needed to measure the sugar for the cake or plant some seeds in the garden, it can help them know that they can still learn.

Developmental delay will manifest differently for every single child and it will take time to figure out what works best for you and your child. While it’s important to be able to identify whether or not your child is hitting certain communication milestones, development is truly unique to each child and some will need more than others as well as the right therapies.  

What is Global Developmental Delay

[1] Speech Pathology Australia. (n.d.). Communication impairment in Australia. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from bellfieldsp.com.au/assets/factsheets/Factsheet_Communication_Impairment_in_Australia.pdf.

[2] Palmer, A. D., Newsom, J. T., & Rook, K. S. (2017). How does difficulty communicating affect the social relationships of older adults? an exploration using data from a national survey. Journal of communication disorders. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4968942/.

Françoise Nicoloff

Official Representative of Tomatis Developpement SA in Australia, Asia and South Pacific, Director of the Australian Tomatis® Method, Registered Psychologist, Certified Tomatis® Consultant Senior, Tomatis® International Trainer and Speaker, Co-author of the Listening Journey Series, 40 Years of Experience, Neurodiversity Speaker

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