A Disabled Child – what is Disability

A disabled child in one who suffers from a long-term disability which interferes with growing and improvement, or the normal occupation of the body, or the capability to learn.

Most babies born perfectly healthy and with no problems, but defects do occasionally occur. It is important to know about them because it may be possible to:

  • Avoid them – German measles damage, Rhesus damage, and birth injuries.
  • Have treatment to remove them- ‘hole in the heart’, cleft palate, hare lip
  • Treatment to relieve the condition – some cases of spina bifida
  • Control the disable with drugs – epilepsy
  • Lessen the disable by early training – Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, deafness
  • Prevent the development of a secondary disable – early treatment of deaf children will make it possible for them to speak, and correct treatment at an early age for squint will prevent blindness in the squinting eye.

Disabled children are either born with their disable or acquire it later because of accident or infection.

Congenital Disabled Child

A congenitally disabled one which is present at birth. With some children, the disable is obvious from the moment they are born, for example, Down’s syndrome or spina bifida. In other cases, for example, deafness or mild cases of cerebral palsy, the disabled only becomes specious as the child grows, or rather, fails to develop in the usual way.

Congenital Disabled Child can arise in three ways:

  • The abnormal genetic factor which the child gets to form his parents. Examples of Down’s syndrome, hemophilia (severe bleeding from minor wounds) and muscular dystrophy.
  • Brain damage during development or birth. This caused by insufficient oxygen (anoxia) or a number of other reasons. The disable which results depends on the part of the brain damaged. For example, a part controlling movement has damaged the result is analytical palsy (spasticity).  Apart from controlling intelligence damaged the result is a mental disable.
  • Failure of development of specific parts of the body. Examples ‘hole in the heart’, cleft palate and hare lip, and damage caused by German measles virus, drugs, smoking, and alcohol.

Accident or infection during childhood

A serious accident particularly a blow or fall on the head may head to a disable. Some infections may also do the same, for example, polio can cause paralysis, and meningitis may cause deafness or mental disability.

Physical Disabled Child

A physical disability affects the body. Normal growth and development are prevented and the result is a physical disability.  For example Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spine bifida, blindness, etc.

Mental Disability

Mental disability affects intelligence. It caused by an abnormality of the brain which results in a low level of intelligence. The disabled child can be mild, moderate or severe. Many mentally disabled people also have physical disable. Children who are mentally disabled progress at a much slower rate than is normal and do not grow up to meet average standards.

Causes of mental disability

Mental disability can have a wide variety of causes including:

  • Down’s syndrome
  • Brain damage in the uterus from the German measles virus
  • During the birth brain damage
  • Brain damage caused by an accident to the head
  • Autism

Training once brain damage has occurred, it is impossible to repair the damage and remove the disability. However, much can be done to help with proper care and training. The training of the mentally disabled is aimed at developing as much independence as possible, those with a mild disable can learn to live independent lives. The more severely handicapped always need caring for to some degree by the community.

Effects on the family

Most disabled children cared for at home by their families. Generally, this is the best place for them as they have the same need for happy family life as other children. They need to be treated in the same way that is, clasped, smiled at, talked to, played with, taken for outings, given opportunities to meet people, and so on.

Having a child with a severe disable undoubtedly puts stress on the family. It often means a great deal of extra work and expense, especially the child is unable to feed himself to be toilet trained, or unable to move around unaided, or requires special equipment.

If the other children in the family are not involved in caring for the handicapped child, they may feel left out and behave badly to try to get more attention. If a mother devotes all her time to the handicapped child it may be harmful to her relationship with her husband, It could lead to the breakdown of the marriage and the extra problems of a one- parent family.

Help for families

Families with a disabled child need lots of outside help including:

  • Practical advice for day-to-day care
  • Advice on the right way to train a handicapped child from babyhood onwards to lead as full a life a possible
  • Contact with other families with similar problems- to find out how they overcome difficulties
  • Financial help for special equipment and other necessary expenses
  • Help with the ordinary domestic jobs
  • Child-minding help so that the mother can have a break
  • Transport for outings
  • Help with holidays.

The help can come from relations, friends, neighbors, health visitors, the family doctor, social workers, schools and teacher. There are also a large number of voluntary organizations which help both the handicapped and their families.

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