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Global Developmental Delay

Each child develops at their own rate but children generally develop physical, mental, and social milestones within a certain time range. When children develop more slowly than their peers, it may be a sign of a developmental delay. These developmental delays could also indicate an underlying physical or medical problem, including brain injury. If you have questions about your child’s developmental delays and suspect a possible birth injury, contact your birth injury malpractice attorney for answers.   

What is Global Developmental Delay?

Global developmental delay (GDD) is a general term for children who may have delayed mental and physical development. Developmental monitoring watches children over time to make sure they are meeting the right milestones. Developmental milestones are based on age and category of milestones, including:

  • Motor skills
  • Speech and cognitive skills
  • Social and emotional development

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a list of developmental milestones from 2 months of age up to age 5. These milestones can be observed by the way the child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves. The following table provides a partial list of some of the important developmental milestones for children from 2 months to 18 months.  

Age 2 Months Milestones

Social/Emotional Communication Cognitive Movement
Begins to smile; can calm themselves; and tries to look at parent. Coos and makes gurgling sounds, and turns toward sounds. Pays attention to faces; follows things with eyes; and acts bored. Can hold head up; pushes up when on tummy; and makes smoother arm and leg movement.

Age 4 Months Milestones

Social/Emotional Communication Cognitive Movement
Smiles spontaneously; likes to play with people; and copies some movements and expressions. Begins to babble, copies sounds; and cries in different ways to express tired, hunger, or pain. Shows happy or sad; responds to affection; reaches for toys with one hand; and watches faces closely. Holds head steady; may roll over from tummy to back; and can hold and shake a toy. 

Age 6 Months Milestones

Social/Emotional Communication Cognitive Movement
Knows familiar faces; likes to play with others; responds to other’s emotions; and likes to look at self in a mirror. Responds to sounds with sounds; responds to name; and makes sounds showing joy or displeasure.  Looks around at things nearby; brings things to mouth; tries to get things that are out of reach; and passes things from hand to hand. Rolls over in both directions; begins to sit without support; supports weight on legs when standing; and rocks back and forth. 

Age 9 Months Milestones

Social/Emotional Communication Cognitive Movement
May be afraid of strangers; Clingy with familiar adults; and has favorite toys. Understands “no”; makes a lot of different sounds like “mamama” and “bababa”; copies sounds and gestures; and points at things. Watches the path of something as it falls; plays peek-a-boo; puts things in mouth; and picks up things between thumb and index finger. Stands, holding on; can get into sitting position; sits without support; pulls to stand; and crawls. 

Age 12 Months Milestones

Social/Emotional Communication Cognitive Movement
Is shy or nervous with strangers; cries when mom or dad leaves; has favorite things and people; shows fear in some situations; repeats sounds or actions; and plays games like “peek-a-boo”. Responds to simple spoken requests; uses simple gestures; makes sounds with changes in tone; says “mama” and “dada”; and tries to say words you say. Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing; looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named; copies gestures; puts things in and out of a container; and follows simple directions.  Gets to a sitting position without help; pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture; may take a few steps without holding on; and may stand alone.

These are guidelines and not necessarily hard-and-fast rules. These are the milestones when most children reach these levels of development. As a parent, you know your child better than others. If you notice a problem with the way your child acts, speaks, plays, or moves, contact your doctor. 

Delayed Cognitive Function

Cognitive function involves the child’s mental abilities. This can affect the way the child plays, speaks, acts, communicates, and their emotions and social interactions. Children with delayed cognitive function or intellectual disabilities may learn more slowly and have limited abilities even after full development. Long-term cognitive disabilities may include: 

Delayed Physical Function

Signs of delayed physical function can be observed with a physical exam. A doctor may look at any physical abnormality or unique appearance, which could indicate genetic conditions. A physical exam may also include a doctor testing: 

  • Reflexes
  • Muscle tone
  • Balance
  • Walking
  • Standing on one foot
  • Catching a ball

While these delays are physical in presentation they are often caused by neurological problems. Physical function can also be impaired by a brain or spinal cord injury, damage, or disease. 

In some cases, a child may be able to function mentally without problem but their physical body cannot respond at the same level. Physical problems may also delay physical and motor development. For example, finger abnormalities or different length of leg growth could impair physical development, including gross motor and fine motor skills.

Palsy is a common physical disability that may be discovered shortly after the child is born. Palsy a term for types of paralysis-related conditions, which can cause weakness, loss of feeling, and uncontrollable body movements or tremors. Palsy the term attached to a number of medical conditions, including: 

Causes of Developmental Delays

Developmental delays can be caused by a number of factors, and occur because of something that happened anywhere along the child’s development, from before the baby is born until the child is fully developed. Causes of developmental delays include:

  • Genetic conditions
  • Chromosomal conditions (like Down syndrome)
  • Alcohol or drugs during pregnancy
  • Birth infections
  • Birth complications
  • Delayed delivery
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Environmental toxin exposure
  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Low birthweight
  • Premature birth
  • Hyperbilirubinemia or HIND

Treatment and Prognosis of Developmental Delays

Treatment and prognosis for a child with developmental delays depend on the cause of delay, extent of delay, and age of the child. In the early stages, identifying the delay and diagnosing the source of the problem can increase the chance of recovery and reverse or limit any dysfunction. Early intervention and support may involve a multi-disciplinary approach, including treatment with: 

The long-term prospects for some children center around living with a developmental disability. Children with mental or physical disabilities may need additional care, medical treatment, support, and educational requirements but these children can stay a part of the community and have fulfilling lives. Treatment for those with a developmental disability may include treating physical health conditions and reducing the 

Developmental Delays Caused by Medical Malpractice

There are a lot of possible causes of developmental delays, including errors by doctors, medical staff, or hospitals. Doctors are held to a standard of care. When doctors breach that standard of care and cause injury to the patient, it may be considered medical malpractice. Medical malpractice during pregnancy and labor can cause injury to the baby, leading to developmental delays. Some of the common medical mistakes that lead to developmental delays include: 

Medical errors related to placental abruption may involve failure to diagnose placental abruption, delayed treatment of a mother and child with placental abruption, delayed delivery for a baby with fetal distress, failure to monitor the mother and baby, and failure to continue to monitor the mother after delivery. 

Birth Injury Attorneys

If your child exhibits developmental delays and you suspect it was caused by a birth injury, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about holding the doctors and healthcare systems accountable for their actions. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.

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