Understanding the Difference Between Global Developmental Delay and Disability



Observing your child take their first steps or say their first words can be an immensely gratifying experience for parents. However, there are times when children may not meet a certain milestone. What happens then? It is natural for a parent to feel anxious about their child’s development. But it’s also key to know that what your child is experiencing could be a developmental delay and not a developmental disability. In this blog, we clearly define both and show how they differ.


What are developmental delays?


The first five years of a child’s life are critical; this is when little ones learn how to express their thoughts and feelings, they learn how to interact and begin to develop motor skills. There are five main areas of skill development to track the growth of children, these include:


  1. Cognitive skills: The ability to understand new information, reason, and solve problems.

  2. Social and emotional: The ability to express their thoughts and emotions and to get along and form a bond with others.

  3. Speech and language skills: The ability to understand and use language.

  4. Fine and gross motor skills: The ability to coordinate hand muscles to be able to perform tasks like writing and tying shoelaces, as well as the ability to coordinate muscles to be able to perform key actions like running, hopping and skipping.

  5. Daily living activities: The ability to manage everyday tasks such eating independently and following instructions.


Parents look forward to watching their children successfully meeting milestones and moving on to the next developmental phase. What happens when your child does not meet these milestones? It is fairly common for young children to develop developmental delay, with 10 to 15% of the global population experiencing such delays. A developmental delay is a single delay in one of these five domains, such as cognition or communication. Global development delays (GDD), however, means that a child experiences delays in at least two areas. This is significantly less common, and occurs in 1 to 3% of children globally.


Visiting an early intervention centre, like MindChamps Allied Care, in Singapore, would help you to determine and understand the type of developmental delay and help your child to receive early intervention and treatment so that they can have a level playing field with their peers. This would ensure they grow and achieve normal development by adulthood.


Understanding developmental disability


Does having GDD then mean your child has a developmental disability? A developmental disability includes limitations in function resulting from disorders of the developing nervous system, according to the National Institutes of Health. A disability can impact one of these facets of a child’s development: cognition, motor, vision, hearing, hearing and speech, and behaviour.


Cognitive or intellectual disabilities can include specific learning disabilities, as well as reading disabilities, like dyslexia. One example of a behavioural deficit includes Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder. Some disabilities are only identified later in childhood, such as when a child starts school.


While for developmental delays, children can catch up to their peers with intervention and treatment, for developmental disabilities, this condition will persist throughout their lives.


Differences between developmental delay and developmental disability


If your child has a developmental delay, it does not necessarily mean they have a developmental disability. However, a developmental delay can be an early indicator of a learning disability and most children with disabilities exhibit several developmental delays.


This makes it especially important for parents to seek help from a qualified professional so your child’s developmental needs can be supported. Educational therapy can help to navigate difficulty and improve outcomes. Without early intervention during the critical window – the first 6 years of their life – children might continue to face challenges and may experience difficulty in catching up. This decreases their chances of entering a mainstream school.


MindChamps’ Allied Care Early Intervention Programme (EIP)


Whether your child has a developmental delay, global developmental delay, or developmental disability, seeking help early is critical. MindChamps Allied Care Early Intervention Programme (EIP) aims to prepare your child to enter a mainstream preschool or a Special Education school in Singapore.


Our AEPS (Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children is a comprehensive framework through which your child’s strengths and skills are assessed and goals and objectives are formulated. With a methodical approach such as this, your child’s progress can be monitored and activities and therapy sessions can be designed to assist their growth.


Schedule an appointment with us so you can get started on a fulfilling journey that sees your child improve in their ability to learn and develop life skills.


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