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Global Delay and Learning Disabilities

When young children have delayed developmental milestones (smiling, sitting, walking, first words), they are described as having a global developmental delay.  This may be transitory.

If they have not caught up with their peers by 5 years' old,

and there is a cognitive delay, they are described as having a learning disability.

Sometimes there is a known genetic reason for a learning disability and the child has a named condition.  Examples include Down Syndrome or Angelman Syndrome.

a toddler with Down Syndrome is hiding under a blanket between her parents and looking at her mum

Children with global delay and learning disabilities will need support with:


Interaction: We will provide lots of opportunities to engage with another person.  In therapy, We use high-interest activities to gain and maintain the child's attention. 

We play games like 'ready steady go!' with bubbles and balls.  We meet the child where they are, and follow their interests to tempt them into communication.


Receptive language: We need to help the child make the connection between a spoken word and its meaning.  For example, the word 'ball' relates to the colourful round thing rolling towards them!  We will provide repeated exposures to new words to help develop

word knowledge.  We will support spoken language with visual support, for example using Makaton signs or communication symbols. 

Expressive language: Children with global delay or learning disabilities may struggle with the motor planning for speech.  We can support them by providing Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to meet their specific needs.  This might take the form of a communication board or book.  A Speech and Language Therapist will need to be involved to select the best form of AAC.  AAC does not stop a child from talking.  Research and clinical experience consistently shows the opposite is true.  The consistent use of AAC provides teh child with a means to express themselves and this often stimulates speech.



See my books about AAC

Whos afraid of AAC book by Ali Battye SLT
Navigating AAC book by Ali Battye SLT
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