How physiotherapy supports children with developmental delay

How physiotherapy supports children with developmental delay



What is developmental delay?

If your child is diagnosed with developmental delay, it means that their development is delayed compared to other children their age. They will take longer to learn new skills, such as physical, emotional and communication skills, than most other children.

Developmental delays can be short-term, or they can be the first sign of longer-term challenges.

What is Global Developmental delay?

Global development delay or GDD is a term used when a child shows delays across several areas of development. For example, they are not reaching speech and physical motor milestones that are age appropriate.

Signs of developmental delay

All children will develop skills and reach milestones at their own pace. As a guide, if your child isn’t developing a skill or reaching a milestone such as sitting, crawling, walking or saying their first words within similar timeframes to other children the same age, they may be experiencing developmental delay.

Children can overcome and grow out of delays and effectively “catch-up” to their peers. Some children may display signs of developmental delay that is later diagnosed as developmental disability. Children can also experience developmental delays that are associated with a disability such as cerebral palsy.

If you’re concerned, have a chat to your GP or other health practitioner.

Can physiotherapy help my child with developmental delay?

Yes. Physiotherapy can support children to:

  • Achieve or work towards physical milestones such as crawling, sitting and standing
  • Improve posture, muscle strength, balance, motor control and coordination
  • Improve their level of independence in everyday life
  • Feel more confident

How might physiotherapy help my child with developmental delay?

There are a range of different physiotherapy treatment techniques to support children with developmental delay. Treatment will be tailored to your child’s needs, age and abilities. Your child’s physiotherapist should work with you to help to set short and long-term goals that will improve your child’s quality of life. Some of the techniques that a physiotherapist may include in a treatment plan to support a child with developmental delay are:

Neuro Developmental Therapy (NDT)

NDT is a hands-on approach that can be used to improve function and participation in physical activities.  NDT was developed as an approach to support children and adults who have difficulty controlling movement as a result of a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy, a brain injury or a stroke. Treatment involves repeating movements over and over to support the brain signals that are needed to complete the movement.

Sensory Integration

Our senses play an important role in how we interpret the world around us. Some children with developmental delay can experience challenges with how they process sensory information called sensory integrative dysfunction.

Sensory integration therapy helps children to build and strengthen the connections within their brain that their developmentally typical peers will build and strengthen through regular childhood experiences.

A child’s sensory processing is problematic if they are:

  • Over-responsive – they may display avoidance, caution or be fearful
  • Sensory seeking – they can be impulsive and take risks that can lead to injury
  • Under-responsive – they may appear to be withdrawn, passive or difficult to engage


Sensory integration therapy is designed to help children interpret sensory input, understand its relevance, and respond – especially to external stimuli that are often beyond their control.

Stretching & Hydrotherapy

Stretching exercises can help to lengthen muscles which can increase range of motion and help to prevent muscles from becoming stiff. For children who are experiencing delayed development of gross motor skills, increasing their range of motion can help.

Another technique used in physiotherapy to increase range of motion and mobility is hydrotherapy. In hydrotherapy, exercises take place in the water with your child’s body weight supported.

Further Information

For further information on how our team of physiotherapists can support children with developmental delay, visit our physio page, call us on 1800 XAVIER or email We currently* have availability for physiotherapy appointments throughout Brisbane and the greater Brisbane area (including Logan, Ipswich and North Lakes).

*June 2022