Global development delay is not a medical disorder in itself but rather an indication that your child is falling behind in at least two important areas of development, according to the American Academy of Neurology. The causes of this delayed development can usually be traced to a disease, disorder or environmental factor that then must be treated—if possible—in order to allow the child to develop at a more normal pace.
Key Areas of Development
In its guidelines for parents and caregivers, the AAN identifies five main areas of development that should be monitored in your child. These are speech and language, including babbling, identifying familiar sounds and mimicking adult speech; motor skills, such as sitting up, rolling over and picking up small objects; an ability to figure things out and to reason; social and personal skills, as evidenced by play with others and an ability to make friends; and everyday activities, such as dressing and eating.
It is not always possible to pinpoint the cause of global development delay, according to the AAN, although delay often may be related to events or conditions during the child’s foetal development. Other causes include infections, premature birth or genetic/hereditary disorders. Although doctors ultimately may be unable to identify a cause for your child’s development delay, they will use a variety of diagnostic tests in an attempt to do so.
Because genetics often plays a role in developmental delay, your doctor first may order genetic (chromosomal) testing to determine if the child has inherited disorders such as Fragile X and Rett syndromes. Once genetic causes have been ruled out, other tests can be conducted.
Blood or urine tests will be checked for the presence of lead in the child’s body or any indication of a thyroid malfunction, while computed tomographic (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be able to spot possible damage to critical structures within the central nervous system. An electroencephalogram can spot the presence of seizure disorders such as epilepsy, and vision and hearing tests are essential to ensure that neither of these vital senses is impaired. Impaired vision or hearing is implicated in many cases of developmental delay.
As indicated earlier, there is no treatment for global development delay, but only for some of the conditions that may be causing the delay. Once your paediatrician or neurologist has completed testing, he can order appropriate treatment for whatever underlying medical conditions may exist. If hearing or vision is a problem, corrective measures can be taken. Remember that it’s possible that no cause will be found or that the cause that’s identified may be difficult, if not impossible, to treat. Knowledge is power, however, so being aware of the conditions that are causing the delay can help parents, teachers and medical professionals to better counsel and guide children who are experiencing developmental problems.