Developmental Delay? Physio can help?

POSTED: 09 Dec, 2022

1. What is Developmental Delay?

a. Developmental delay is defined by a child not achieving developmental milestones in comparison to peers of the same age range. Milestones are measured in the domain of physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive growth. A significant delay in two or more of these domains affecting children under the age of 5 years is termed Global Developmental Delay (GDD).

2. What causes it?

a. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to 15% of children less than 5 years of age have a developmental disorder. The cause of this delay in development can be attributed to prenatal maternal condition, complications during pregnancy and environmental factors. Some examples of causes are: genetic disorders, vascular conditions, medications, toxins, maternal or post birth infections, intrauterine growth retardation etc.

3. How can it be detected?

    1. Developmental delay in a child is often measured by 3 major channels:
      1. During routine developmental surveillance or screening
      2. Following parental concern
      3. After 3rd parties such as preschool teachers or child care educators raise their concerns.
    2. A concern regarding a child’s development is often raised through observation of the child while they play or through interactions with others or things around them. If a parent or guardian notices things like difficulty holding their head up, inattention to one side of the body, deformity in body part etc; it is recommended that the child is assessed by a professional to allow early commencement of treatment if required.
    3. Common barriers to early identification:
      1. Lack of time, resources and training
      2. Parent disagreeing with the referral or denial
      3. Lack of understanding regarding the condition
      4. Social/ financial circumstances

4. Red flags in a child’s development

a. There are acceptable normal variances in a child’s development with regards posture, gait, interaction with toys or people. However, there are certain variances such as toe walking, neglecting one side of the body, unable to sit unsupported, etc. which raise a concern and need to be assessed thoroughly.

5. How can Integrate Physio help?

a. Our Physiotherapists are well trained and equipped to do a comprehensive and detailed individualised assessment with the main goal of treatment is to: i. Be able achieve the age appropriate milestones.

b. Ways our physiotherapists can support your child:

    1. Assess and prescribe assistive technology
    2. Age appropriate exercises or activities to aid in reaching gross motorgoals
    3. Provide early intervention to optimise neuroplasticity in the growing brain
    4. and allow children to maximise developmental potential
    5. Improve coordination, strength, endurance and flexibility through play, stretches and exercises
    6. Provide fun and engaging environment to promote participation
    7. Targeted exercises to support participation in sport, recreation and leisure activities

6. Is treatment successful?

a. Physiotherapy interventions are certainly beneficial for a child with developmental delay, especially with delay within the physical domain. Additionally, early commencement of intervention can potentially allow for highest plasticity in the body and nervous system. Literature also advices for the frequency and duration of training to be as high as possible to obtain the best possible results. For best outcomes, it would be recommended for parents to conduct daily training and weekly or bi-weekly consultation with the therapist to track performance and progress intervention as appropriate.

About the author

Urja completed her Master in Physiotherapy from Griffith University in 2021. Urja also holds a Bachelor in Exercise Science contributing to her treatment planning and exercise prescription. Urja enjoys working with people of all ages to get them back to work, sport or day to day life. She believes i ... more

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