We hadn’t heard of GDD until Grace was diagnosed in May 2021 – the same time she was diagnosed as Autistic. It wasn’t a term that was used very often, and we decided to find out all we could about it to ensure that we helped Grace as much as we could.
Put simply, the term 'developmental delay' or 'global development delay' is used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age. It has 3 sectors – Mild, Moderate and Severe, and is considered a learning disability.
We noticed that Grace wasn’t reaching the usual milestones at around 1 year old – most children were getting their first words and starting to chat away, but Grace took longer. She said a word here or there, but it was mostly babble. We put it down to the lockdown, she wasn’t able to socialise and communicate with others aside from Me, Nick & my mum, which we thought had an impact on her development and she would simply catch up. We knew Grace had a delay, but we didn't know there was a term for it
We noticed that Grace would learn things, such as words and how to do shapes puzzles etc, and then simply forget. This was especially hard to deal with for me, as it felt like I was losing the child that Grace was becoming – Grace learnt a lot of words, and then regressed, which is apparently quite common for children with Autism.
We found that tasks that children would learn early on – climbing stairs, throwing or kicking a ball and even running, Grace would have difficulty with – Today she is still a very clumsy child and has difficulty with stairs – HUGE problem for us as we live on the 3rd floor!
When Grace was assessed by the Paediatrician, she was also assessed by an Occupational Therapist. They discussed their findings together and concluded that Grace had a severe global delay – she was not reaching the milestones of children who were half her age. Admittedly, this was like a punch to the stomach, I instantly felt like a bad parent, and that I was doing something wrong if my child hadn’t learnt the skills she needed to. But it wasn’t that at all – she just wasn’t there yet. When we got the paperwork back from the Paediatrician, it was in black and white - GDD.
We get term reports from Grace’s preschool, and for many things she is still on the lower range for Personal, Social & Emotional Development, Communication & Language and Mathematics. Grace’s preschool has been excellent in tailoring their curriculum for Grace’s needs and always work to her preferences.
We were told at Grace’s first appointment with the Paediatrician that it would be extremely unlikely that Grace would just ‘Catch up’ and that this would be an ongoing thing throughout her life. Again, something that was extremely tough to hear and accept. Grace is developing, but at her own pace. She is now talking, albeit the communication skills of a child around the age of 2. She can now also throw a ball (and other objects!), jump off the floor with both feet, do actions to nursery rhymes and help to get herself dressed/undressed.
Throughout the entire diagnosis and learning process, we have felt bad for being sad and upset at what Grace has and worry over what her life will be once she is older – but it’s okay to be sad at times, no one expects for their child to go through these challenges, especially at such a young age.
We now understand that this isn’t what will define Grace – yes, she has learning disabilities that impact the speed of her development, but she is hilariously funny, has a cheeky sense of humour and most importantly, has a thirst for knowledge like no other, we just need to provide the correct tools for her and have lots of patience.