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By the age of 12 months, Lukas couldn’t sit up. He didn’t crawl, walk or talk. Lukas’ pediatrician referred him to the Child Development Program at The Montreal Children’s Hospital. Worry crept into Lukas’ parents’ lives.
Lukas was 23 months old when he and his parents met Dr. Shuvo Ghosh for the first time. The toddler underwent a battery of tests to gauge his language abilities as well as his fine and gross motor skills. Lukas had physical exams with two pediatricians, and had hearing tests and a psychological evaluation to complete the assessment. “When a child is being evaluated by a member of the team, the other members observe the interviews from an adjacent room. The inter-disciplinary team is the foundation and strength of our work with these children,” explains Dr. Emmett Francoeur. Meeting to discuss their observations, Drs. Francoeur and Ghosh and the team finally confirmed their diagnosis. Lukas suffered from a little-known disorder, Global Developmental Delay.
Following this diagnosis, Dr. Ghosh met with Lukas’ parents to explain their son’s strengths and weaknesses. He also recommended various therapies, which would allow Lukas to develop. These therapies are offered within the community, but because waiting lists are long, the family opted to seek private help. Dr. Ghosh and the entire Children’s team suggested a comprehensive plan for Lukas. Highly motivated, Lukas’ parents adopted and adhered to the plan as closely as possible. The result? Lukas has made resounding progress. “For us, everything is therapy: climbing the stairs, playing… We are constantly working to stimulate Lukas,” says Panagis.
A diagnosis of Global Development Delay may bring some much-needed answers to parents, as well as teach them how to help their child, but it does not explain why the problem came about. Young patients suffering from this disorder are then referred to other hospital services, in an attempt to discover the source of the problem. In Lukas’ case, none of his tests were conclusive. The cause of his developmental disorder remains unknown.
Few people understand what Global Developmental Delay is, and many doctors are still unfamiliar with the criteria surrounding its diagnosis. The children affected by it are usually pre-schoolers presenting with multiple developmental delays (motor and language skills and cognitive function). Those who are not diagnosed early enough may not sufficiently recover before entering school. They will often experience learning and integration difficulties, which could then bring on other behavioural problems.
At the Children’s, Drs. Francoeur and Ghosh are currently developing a program unique to Canada designed to help these children. Their goal is first to define the different categories of Global Developmental Delay in order to facilitate the transition between departments. Secondly, they wish to expand the services offered at The Children’s by adding a second clinic, which would hopefully reduce the waiting list. To help them with this project and allow other children like Lukas to improve, The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation announces the creation of the Global Development Delay Fund.