Help For Delayed Development
Global developmental delay is a term used to describe a generalized intellectual disability that is usually characterized by lower than average intellectual functioning along with significant limitations in at least two other areas of development. Common signs of global developmental delay include delayed acquisition of milestones (e.g., sitting up, crawling, walking), limited reasoning or conceptual abilities, poor social skills and judgement, aggressive behaviour as a coping skill, and communication difficulties.
Global developmental delay has many causes which, as an end result, affect the functioning of the central nervous system. Causes can be genetic (e.g., Fragile X syndrome), or metabolic (e.g., PKU), prenatal (e.g., rubella or birth trauma), perinatal (e.g., prematurity or the result of a childhood injury or infection). Sometimes the cause for the condition is undetermined.
An Approach to a Child with Developmental Delay
A child’s development is a dynamic process, and assessment at any point in time is merely a snap shot of the bigger picture and should be interpreted in the context of the child’s history from conception to the present. While a child may appear to have normal development for the first twelve months of life, a deviation in the course of the child’s development in subsequent years is indicative of an underlying disability. Developmental assessment involves three aspects: screening, surveillance, and definitive diagnostic assessment.
Developmental screening is identifying children who may need evaluation. It is a brief assessment procedure designed to identify children who should receive more intensive diagnosis or assessment. This is accomplished in the pediatrician’s office.
Developmental surveillance is a continuous process whereby the child is followed over time to pick up on subtle deficiencies in the child’s developmental process. The components of developmental surveillance include eliciting and attending to parental concerns, obtaining a relevant developmental history, observing the child’s development in the office and referring for further assessment of development by other relevant professionals.
Diagnostic assessment is performed on a child who has been identified as having a potential problem. This step requires extensive involvement of various team players such as a psychologist, educator, social worker, developmental pediatrician, geneticist, and/or other medical professionals.