Children with disability 

Dr Sheila Shribman talks about how parents and health professionals can work together to support children with disability.

More about disability and social care

Transcript of Children with disability

I'm Dr Sheila Shribman.

I'm the National Clinical Director for children, young people and maternity

at the Department of Health.

If I were the parent of a child who might have an illness, a disability,

or, indeed, any sort of health problem,

I'd want to have time with my doctor,

for them to listen to me and to understand my concerns.

It's very worrying if you have a child who might have a problem.

You may be looking for reassurance, information

or there may be a need for a diagnosis

and a clear explanation of what needs to be done.

If you were bringing your child to hospital initially,

and you had a concern that your child might have a disability,

perhaps the GP had thought that was a possibility,

then you'll be very concerned.

You will need to see a wide range of people

in order to sort the problems out.

So you might see a doctor, a nurse with a special interest in this area,

physiotherapist, speech and language therapist, psychologist,

teacher, social workers.

It's important to take a multi-disciplinary approach.

It's about putting the child and the family

in the centre of what is provided

and making sure all of those needs are met.

It's obviously a great shock for many parents

when their child is diagnosed with a disability

but they have to understand the nature of the child's condition

and the implications.

They need a lot of support, information

pointing to the right place.

It's not all about what happens in the consultation at the hospital

but what happens in everyday life

and how they can best support their child in the longer term.

Children respond best if they're in their usual surroundings.

Of course, young children like to play

so if you're designing a facility

in a practice or a clinic or in a hospital,

you want to make them feel relaxed

and enjoy, as much as possible, their experience.

So you need an appropriate range of toys and facilities.

You need something for the young, something for babies, toddlers,

children in the middle years but also for adolescents and teenagers

who, otherwise, don't like to come into a very childlike environment,

especially as they're growing up.

Some children who have a disability, we can detect that early on

and initiate treatment.

We've just screened our two millionth baby

in the country looking for hearing loss.

We can now test newborn babies soon after birth

and should they need support

with hearing aids or even a new cochlear implant,

that can be provided early on in a child's life

and prevent lots of problems later on.

When a child and family come to the outpatient clinic,

they may need no tests at all.

Perhaps by listening and talking

the problem can be sorted out without any tests.

But we do sometimes need to do urine tests or blood tests.

We certainly usually weigh and measure children, measure their blood pressure.

So those would be routine activities in the clinic.

For those with particular problems, we might then need to do scans

or to do further investigations to see what the problem's all about.

To ensure we deliver excellent services for children and families,

we need to make sure

that we take their needs, opinions and views into account,

and we put them at the centre of everything that we do.

We try to do that in the Health Service. We haven't always got it right.

But we're trying very hard to make sure

that we really benefit families in the future

by meeting their needs in best possible

and supporting them throughout the changes in their life that may occur.

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