Global Developmental Delay Vs. Autism, Understanding the Differences and Similarities

Global Developmental Delay Vs. Autism, Understanding the Differences and Similarities

Understanding the differences and similarities between Global Developmental Delay vs Autism can be difficult and complex. There are various crossovers in terms of behaviour and developments, however Global Developmental Delay tends to present fewer barriers than Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Understanding Global Developmental Delay vs. Autism

To put it simply, a developmental delay is when your child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times, whilst Autism refers to a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, present from early childhood which is characterised by the difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people, and using language and abstract concepts.

Global Developmental Delay is usually diagnosed in children under the age of five years old, indicating a delay in a child’s development across several broad areas, including:

  • Language or speech
  • Vision
  • Movements – motor skills
  • Social and emotional skills
  • Thinking -cognitive skills

Autism can be diagnosed in addition to Global Developmental Delay when a child has difficulty in developing social and communication skills.

So, how does this impact a child? Global Developmental Delay may impact a child by limiting their ability to:

  • Understand and retain information,
  • Solve problems,
  • Interpret social cues and social awareness,
  • Respond appropriately to others,
  • Gain personal independence and self-care skills,
  • Navigate their environment through movement (gross and fine motor skills),
  • Interact and play with their same aged peers.

Children living with Global Developmental Delay vs. Autism

Children living with Global Developmental Delay vs. Autism, display a significant difference in their communication developments and adaptive function, partly due to the large number of potential underlying causes. Typically, children living with Global Developmental Delay are less likely to engage in restrictive or repetitive behaviour patterns and may present with better social skills.

Children living with autism typically present with:

  • Repetitive behaviours, such as repeating sounds for non-communicative purposes, flapping their hands, rocking back and forth.
  • Non-responsive to social interactions with others
  • Limited imitation of other people’s actions, sounds or words
  • Restricted behaviours for example fixations on non-functional objects within their environment or fixations on one topic or toy.

Early Intervention is Key

Significant early therapy such as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Therapy, can improve a child’s developmental skills, and help build the skills and catch up to their same aged peers; particularly for those who have higher support needs.

ABA Therapy is a key strategy used to teach these early developmental skills for children with Global Developmental Delay and Autism. However, it needs to be done intensively and ideally involve those important to the child’s life, such as the child’s parents, guardians, and day-care providers to ensure generalisation of skills.

At Lizard Centre, our expert clinicians can provide individual developmental assessments to identify unique strengths and  areas that require additional support for children presenting with a diagnosis of either Global Developmental Delay or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, speak to your child’s paediatrician or a trusted health professional.