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Parents of very young child may hear the term global developmental delay. It sounds significant, but what does it mean?

Global developmental delay is a term used for a pre-school age child who has difficulty in two or more areas of development. It may be a cognitive, communication, physical or social/emotional delay.  The child is making progress at a slower rate than their peers and their progress may be uncertain. A clinician, e.g. Community Paediatrician or Neonatologist can diagnose the condition and monitor development.

When very young children start to develop, their skills are interdependent to a great extent, so a delay in one area often impacts on the progress in another area.  For some children, global delay may be short-term, and the developing child will respond well to therapeutic or medical intervention, for others it is long-term. Global delay can also accompany other conditions, e.g. autism and co-occur with medical and sensory needs, e.g. asthma or hearing impairment.

A young child with global developmental delay may need support at nursery and later in school. Health visitors and Early Years teachers provide an adapted environment and strategic programmes to help very young children play and learn.  Therapists, eg Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists will assess strengths and needs and provide advice and packages of support at home and school, to enhance cognition, communication and physical development. In addition, Early Years inclusion teachers can support at nursery and in Foundation Stage and extra funding may be available to support the child’s learning. In some cases a formal offer of EHCP from the local authority will be useful.

It is important that global developmental delay is recognised as early as possible so that a child can take advantage of early intervention support at the nursery stage before they reach school, and so fulfil their optimal and best potential.

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