HomeHealth articlesglobal developmental delayWhat Is Global Developmental Delay?

Global Developmental Delay

Verified dataVerified data
Global Developmental Delay

4 min read


Global developmental delay is a child lagging behind other children of his or her age in attaining or reaching certain milestones (developmental).

Written by

Dr. Kirti Maan

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sajeev Kumar

Published At July 12, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 19, 2023

What Is Global Developmental Delay?

Global developmental delay, also known as developmental delay, is an umbrella term and is used to define a child who is slow in learning developmental activities, including both mental (cognitive) and physical activities such as how to walk, talk, move, or learn new things or interact with others. It is easily diagnosable when the child is slow or lags in more than one milestone, including motor skills, cognitive skills, emotional development, speech, or social evolution of the child.

A child often learns important developmental skills such as sitting, getting up, rolling over, crawling, making noise (trying to speak), talking, and toilet training by a certain age. Each of these milestones and others has a definitive age mark by which they should be flagged off; delay in achieving that mark is often termed as developmental delay or global developmental delay. The development of every child is at its own pace. Some children develop before their respective age, and some after. However, there is a standardized age level to achieve those developmental milestones.

Delay in achieving those minor delays are usually not alarming or even noticeable, but delay beyond the standardized age is a significant flag toward global developmental delay. This delay may be due to a wide variety of factors, including but not limited to heredity, complications while developing or during pregnancy, and often in the case of a child with premature birth.

An individual suffering from other conditions, such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, or an injury to the brain (or parts of the brain) may also suffer from global developmental delay.

What Causes Global Developmental Delay?

There is no one specific cause of global developmental delay that is yet to be known. However, medical illnesses, trauma, or other genetic causes might be the reason behind a child developing global developmental delay. Some of the causes are:

1. Genetic or hereditary causes or illnesses.

2. Physical trauma to the brain (due to an accident, injury, or due to shaken baby syndrome).

3. Psychological stress or trauma (such as post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder).

4. Pregnancy exposure to substances leads to postpartum side effects (such as tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, or lead poisoning).

5. Severe level of infections during pregnancy or post-birth at the time of infancy (such as meningitis, encephalitis).

6. Malnutrition.

7. Metabolic disorders (hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria).

8. Certain syndromes such as Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, autism, or muscular dystrophy.

9. Premature birth.

10. History of physical or mental abuse.

11. Lack of oxygen during labor (affecting both the mother and the child).

12. Dysarthria (a disorder wherein the muscles controlling speech are compromised).

13. Hearing loss is a complete illness or due to an ear infection.

14. Congenital infections.

15. Intracranial hemorrhage or cranial trauma.

What Are the Symptoms of Global Developmental Delay?

Symptoms of global developmental delay are divided into subcategories. Those subcategories are:

Motor Skills - Global developmental delay affects the motor skills, both fine and gross motor skills. Children develop at their own pace; but a momentary delay is normal and understandable however delay in achieving motor skills milestones such as holding things and movements (walking, crawling, or climbing stairs). Children develop and move at their own pace, the standardized age to lift their heads (motor skills) is by three months, they sit with external support (gross motor skill) for around six months, and can walk on their own (gross motor skill) by two years of their life.

Following are the symptoms of the global developmental delay affecting the motor skills:

1. Loose extremities or floppy limbs.

2. Stiff arms.

3. Restricted movements (with respect to arms and legs and sometimes neck).

4. Inability to sit (with or without support) even by nine months of age.

5. Excess of involuntary movements.

6. Inability to stand or support weight on legs even when the child is one year old.

Speech Skills - Global developmental delay has an effect on speech and language skills. The generalized or appropriate age when the child learns speech and language is by three years of their age. Around six months, most children or infants recognize sounds and speech or basic language. Around twelve to fifteen months of age, an infant develops the ability to speak or make simple word sounds (although it often does not make sense).

Speech and language delays are not the same. Speech is the movement of muscles coordinated amongst the vocal tracts, lips, tongue, and jaw to make sound or speech. Delay in speech is characterized when the child is not making sounds or speech as expected or generalized of their respective age. Delay in the language is flagged off when the child has difficulty understanding what people say or express. Language includes speaking, writing, singing, and gesturing. Difficulty understanding these or delay in understanding these are tagged as global developmental delay.

Common Symptoms - Except for the motor and speech symptoms, global developmental skills have some symptoms that are commonly observed in an infant or a child. Some of the common symptoms are:

1. Not responsive (to their name or other sounds directed at them).

2. Poor social skills.

3. Dislike socializing with people (avoids cuddling or playing with others).

4. Difficulty coordinating.

5. Slow development in almost all the respective areas.

6. Lower scores on IQ tests.

7. Difficulty expressing their emotions and thoughts.

8. Lagging thought process or poor logical thinking.

9. Inability to complete everyday tasks.

10. Retarded or delayed conceptual abilities.

11. Aggressive behavior.

12. Poor communication skills.

What Is the Treatment of Global Developmental Delay?

Treatment protocol for global developmental delay concerns a healthcare professional and a licensed psychologist or a psychiatrist. The specialist tests the child for the delay concerning motor or speech or other symptoms and then adapts the treatment procedures to change or fix the said delay. Early intervention is important as it prevents the disorder and helps the child develop more comfortably. The treatment plan includes the concerning healthcare providers:

  • Speech therapists.
  • Physical therapists.
  • Occupational therapists.
  • Audiologists (hearing specialists).
  • Pediatricians.
  • Neurologists.
  • Behavioral therapists.

These professionals help the child adjust and ask for their basic needs. To express their thoughts, expressions, feelings, and concerns.


A child suffering from global developmental delay has reservations about going out in public as they may feel embarrassed because of the delay they face in achieving their developmental milestones. Genetic and environmental factors play a crucial role in causing developmental delay. A child may suffer from other medical conditions that can lead to developmental delays or any severe infection they may suffer from birth or in infancy.

Symptoms of global developmental delay may range from motor skills to speech skills; certain common symptoms delay the overall growth of the child, which hampers the child from living a relatively normal life. The sooner the disorder is diagnosed, the sooner a treatment plan can be formed to help the child grow. Treatment is planned according to the symptoms faced by the child. Global developmental delay is an easily detectable and treatable condition only when a formal diagnosis is made before any complication takes place.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Signs of Global Developmental Delay?

The typical signs of developmental delay can include;
- Delay in developmental milestones like sitting, crawling, walking, etc.
- Fine motor or gross motor difficulties.
- Poor social skills or judgment.
- Communication difficulty.
- Aggressive behavior.


What Age Is Global Developmental Delay?

A significant delay in one or more milestones affecting children by the age of five is considered to be a global developmental delay. Delayed milestones during the developing period can be minimal initially but can widen as age increases.


Is GDD a Form of Autism?

When a milestone is delayed a couple of years beyond the normal, it is said to be a developmental delay. On the other hand, autism is a complex combination of disorders present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communication and building relationships. A child with GDD may be diagnosed with autism at a later age. Children with autism may have one or more developmental delays, while all children with GDD may not be autistic.


What Is the Main Cause of Global Developmental Delay?

Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities are found to be the main cause of Global Developmental Delays. It can be seen in fine or gross motor delays, speech, and language, cognitive, social, psychological, sexual, or any other activities of daily life. Other causes can include premature birth, infections, medical problems like stroke, lead poisoning, or some trauma. At certain times, the exact cause of GDD cannot be clearly known.


Can a Child Recover From Global Developmental Delay?

Some children, who have mild delays in their milestones, can be brought to a normal state by some therapy or additional support. But children with significant delays would require constant support and therapy. They can have learning disabilities as well, and require support throughout life.


How Is GDD Treated?

Children with GDD can be supported with speech and language therapy, physical therapy, or occupational therapy. They can be sent to special educational institutions. The child’s doctor will be able to provide guidance on the type of support the child may require.


How Can I Help My Child With Global Development Delay?

Physical therapy can be given to children with GDD which can help them develop their physical gross motor skills. Occupational therapy can prune their fine motor skills, sensory development, and other difficulties. Speech and language therapy can help them develop their communication skills. Other specialized therapy like behavioral therapy can help children live better lives.


Do Parents Have a Role in Managing GDD?

The developmental delays are usually identified by the parents or the child’s caregivers. They can take the children for the required therapies, which can help them to develop their skills. Parents’ love and support can do wonders for these children.


Is Developmental Delay Serious?

Not all children with developmental delays might have developmental disabilities. It can vary from one child to another. Developmental disabilities can be transient or persistent. Specialized therapies can help to manage them.


Who Is at Risk of Developmental Delay?

The following children can be at high risk for developmental delays;
- Low birth weight children.
- Premature birth.
- Multiple births.
- Children born with infections in pregnancy.


Is Developmental Delay Temporary?

In some children, where the developmental gap is mild, it can be transient. But in children where there are significant differences, it can be severe. Identifying them early, and providing the right therapy can help to improve the condition.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Sajeev Kumar
Dr. Sajeev Kumar



global developmental delay
Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Do you have a question on

global developmental delay

Ask a doctor online

*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy