Global Development Delay; what can this diagnosis mean?

Every parent dreams of a healthy and happy life for their child. But what happens when your child is faced with some extra challenges that you weren’t prepared for? Hearing a doctor say that your child has a Global Development Delay (GDD) can be hugely upsetting for parents. The terms itself is extremely broad and can therefore raise a multitude of questions as caregivers seek to understand what this diagnosis actually means. Below we unpack Global Development Delay and explore what it is and what a parent can do to support their child if faced with a diagnosis of this kind.

What is Global Development Delay?

 ‘Global Development Delay’ is an umbrella term that is used to describe a child who is taking longer to reach developmental milestones than other children their age typically would. This can include a child who is taking longer to learn how to walk, talk or interact socially with others. It can include difficulties with movement skills and learning. Parents are often the first to notice if their child seems a little behind their peers. They might be concerned that their baby isn’t able to sit up unassisted when others their age can. They might notice that their child has feeding difficulties or does not seem to respond to others in a typical way. If a parent has any concerns about their child not seeming to ‘keep up’ with others their own age, it is a very good idea to visit a doctor to explore what might be going on for their child. You could also ask your child’s educators, if they are attending an early learning centre, to ask if they had noticed anything or had any similar concerns.

Global Development Delay

A diagnosis of Global Development Delay is often given in conjunction with other conditions that can impact on a child’s development. For example, children who have Cerebral Palsy or Down’s Syndrome typically take longer to meet developmental milestones and are therefore considered developmentally delayed. You can read more detailed information surrounding developmental delays here: Developmental Delays in Children (

What can cause Global Development Delay?

Global Development Delay can be caused by a wide range of genetic and environmental factors. These can include but are not limited to:

·         Premature birth

·         Genetic and chromosomal conditions

·         Metabolic conditions

·         Complications during pregnancy or birth

·         Alcohol or drugs during pregnancy

·         Vision, speech or hearing problems

·         Injuries or infections of the brain

·         Ongoing illnesses

·         Malnutrition

·         Physical abuse or neglect

Global Development Delay

Of course, there are also times where an underlying cause of Global Development Delay is not able to be ascertained but The Cerebral Palsy Alliance provides extensive information and support for families facing a Global Development Delay diagnosis. You can access their website here: Global development delay | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

What are the signs of Global Development Delay?

Since children are wonderfully unique and no two children are exactly alike, Global Development Delay can look very different from one child to the next. Whilst a diagnosis is based upon the presence of a delay in more than one developmental area, the condition varies significantly in relation to how it can present. A child with Global Development Delay may experience delays in their:

·         Speech and language development

·         Gross motor or fine motor skills development

·         Social development


·         Thinking, understanding and learning

·         Emotional regulation abilities

·         Self-care tasks (eg. Learning to feed themselves or toilet train)

Global Development Delay

Basically, the child just isn’t seeming to grow, develop and learn at the same pace as their peers. The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has developed the following document that provides a detailed explanation of typical developmental milestones from birth to 5 years. This document might be useful if you are feeling concerned about your child’s development and would like to know what is considered to be typical development at each age and stage. DevelopmentalMilestonesEYLFandNQS.pdf (

Can a child outgrow GDD?

Since every child who experiences a Global Development Delay will have their own unique challenges, it is very difficult to determine whether or not a child will eventually ‘catch up’ to their peers. What is important to know is that children who have a developmental delay will not stop learning. Whilst their progress might be slower and they may need more strategies to help them learn new skills, they will continue to progress in their own way and in their own time.

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Global Development Delay

There is no known ‘cure’ for Global Development Delay in children, but we do know that getting intervention supports in place early certainly makes a big difference to the child’s long-term outcomes. There are a wide range of professionals who can provide interventions to support a child’s learning following a diagnosis of Global Development Delay. Engagement with a paediatrician, occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychologist or audiologist are just a few of the service providers that can provide helpful recommendations and resources to support a child’s learning.

In Australia, a child diagnosed with a developmental delay is eligible for support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme to support access to healthcare professionals. For information about applying for NDIS support, visit the following link: Developmental delay for children under 6 years | NDIS


Whilst a diagnosis of Global Development Delay might be shocking and scary, research shows that putting early interventions in place is a critical factor for helping children progress as best they can. Whilst it is important for parents to seek out these interventions for their child, it is also important that they access support for themselves as well – to help navigate the strong emotions and fears that can come with a child’s diagnosis. Each and every child will develop at their own pace and with love, care and support it is possible to help a child with Global Development Delay to grow, develop and achieve to their fullest potential.

I especially love the following anonymous quote;

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“Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times”


This is especially true for children who are experiencing a developmental delay – all children are capable and competent learners but children with Global Development Delay are just taking a little more time to unwrap their package.

Please let me know if your child has had a diagnosis of GDD, or if you are worried and think you might need to get your child assessed. Has this article been helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Global Development Delay; what can this diagnosis mean?

  1. A great read, Thank you for writing about this topic, I close friend of mines little one was recently diagnosed with GDD and it’s been really helpful to be able to read about it and understand it better 🙂

    1. Hey Shevy,

      Thanks so much for the feedback, I’m so happy you found it helpful. It’s something I have learned a lot about and I have supported many children in my early learning centres with inclusion support funding and early intervention, which really is key. Please let me know if I can provide any more info for you or if you would like to see info on any other specific topics! E.

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