As mentioned in our previous article on global developmental delay, children below the age of 5 who show delays in at least two areas of development after taking a standardized test are diagnosed with global developmental delay (GDD). But once the child reaches the age of six, it is no longer appropriate to label him or her as having GDD. By this time, the child will have to undergo another standardized testing to determine what delays were resolved or remain.

If a child shows delays in only one developmental domain, then the doctor will diagnose him or her with a specific type of delay or disorder (i.e. a specific learning disorder or disability, speech delay, gross/fine motor delay).

However, if a child still has persistent significant delays in the following:

  1. Intellectual function (i.e. reasoning, problem solving, planning, learning, abstract thinking, learning from experience, and judgment) and
  2. Adaptive skills (i.e. conceptual, social, practical skills)

Then the child may meet the criteria for a diagnosis of intellectual disability.

Possible causes

The conditions listed below can cause, co-occur, or aggravate a child’s intellectual disability because they will not provide him or her with opportunities to explore, experience, and learn new skills. These include:

  1. The presence of other medical conditions (i.e. autism, cerebral palsy)
  2. The presence of behavioural and psychiatric problems  (such as? ADHD)
  3. Low IQ level (need to clarify/qualify this)
  4. Sensory impairments (i.e. being blind or deaf/mute)
  5. Parenting and environmental factors (ie. supportive vs. neglectful/traumatic)

It is therefore important that a child who has been diagnosed with global developmental delay in his or her younger years also be monitored by a doctor for the above conditions. Remember that the outcome of a child is always better when interventions and supports are given earlier rather than later. 

Preparing the child for school

When the child becomes older, a follow-up visit to a developmental pediatrician or a professional such as a neuropsychologist is necessary. They can do tests to help provide a better picture of a child’s strengths and areas needing support. Once the child enters school, parents are advised to meet with school teachers and administrators to come up with an individualized education plan for him or her.

Support at home

The same standardized testing can also help parents understand how to help stimulate and support their child’s skills in certain areas of development. For example:

  • A child who has difficulty with comprehension, or suffers from short-term memory, will benefit from receiving simpler instructions that can be followed better.
  • For a child with expressive language skill deficits, parents are advised to be more patient and give more time for the child to find the words to answer a question. Another suggestion is to ask only questions answerable by yes or no.
  • In children who have adaptive skill deficits, parents can encourage children to practice doing household chores.

A child’s developmental pediatrician can discuss with parents specific suggestions for their child, or refer him or her to therapists depending on what the child needs. Always remember that a child’s doctors and therapists will do what they can to help set the child up for success.

The information we provide in our website are meant to help parents understand certain terms and conditions better. These posts should not take the place of a comprehensive medical consult. Should you have questions or clarifications, we encourage you to reach out to your primary care physician.

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