Developmental delay is when a child’s development is not at the level expected for their age and has a significant effect on their ability to perform daily routines and activities. A child aged under 6 years with developmental delay may meet the NDIS early intervention requirements NDIS Act 2013 s.9  and be eligible for an NDIS plan.

Developmental delay may include:

How a child looks after them self:

  • showering, bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, grooming, sleeping.

How a child understands and uses language:

  • being understood by other people by using gestures, pictures, words and sentences to communicate
  • understanding what other people say and communicate.

How a child thinks, learns and problem solves: 

  • understanding and remembering information
  • learning new things and using new skills
  • planning, making decisions and completing tasks
  • developing pretend play skills and play interests
  • emotional development and social awareness.

How a child uses their body to move:

  • moving around the home (sitting, crawling, walking)
  • moving to perform everyday routines 
  • manipulating objects and using hands
  • moving about in the community.

Evidence for developmental delay can come from those who know a child well including family, carers, health professionals, allied health professionals and educators.

What is the difference between developmental delay and developmental concerns?

Developmental concerns is a term we use to describe when a child's developmental may be delayed, but they do not fully meet the development delay definition under the NDIS Act 2013 s.9 .

Children aged under 6 years with developmental concerns may be best supported by the NDIS early childhood partner, with short term early intervention and other services including connection to mainstream and community supports. 

You can find out more about the terms developmental delay and developmental concerns in the Access to the NDIS operational guideline

When is a NDIS plan needed?

We know children with developmental delay and developmental concerns benefit from early intervention. This doesn’t always mean your child will require support from an NDIS plan. There are other ways children can receive early intervention support. Learn more about help for children under 7

If it is identified that a child with developmental delay needs an NDIS plan, it works best when a team around the child works in partnership with the child’s family or carers. The team includes early childhood intervention professionals, the family and other carers. The team will support the child’s development and give support to increase the child’s independence and social participation.

Does a child need a diagnosis to receive supports?

No, a diagnosis is not needed for children aged under 6 years. 

For example, the NDIS may also support:

  • A child aged under 6 years with developmental delay
  • A child aged under 6 years waiting for a diagnostic assessment to be completed with health services
  • A child aged under 6 years showing early signs of a disability (for example Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability)
  • A child aged under 12 months who is at significant risk of development delay (for example babies born prematurely).

Is developmental delay the same as Global Developmental Delay?

No, developmental delay is different to Global Developmental Delay (GDD). GDD is a disability that is diagnosed by health professionals, whereas developmental delay is not a disability or a diagnosis.

For information about GDD please refer to the NDIS Operational Guidelines.

Who to contact?

Family or carers can contact their local Early Childhood partner for more information. 

In areas where an Early Childhood partner is not available, family or carers can contact their local NDIS office or call 1800 800 110.

This page current as of
3 May 2021
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