The Family Physician's Role with Parents of Young Children with Developmental Disabilities

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Technological advances, coupled with recent federal legislation targeting young children who have developmental disabilities, will increasingly necessitate an expanded role of the family physician in the lives of these children and their families. Of particular importance is Public Law 99-457, the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1986, which recognizes the importance of the family unit in any intervention methodology that may be provided. This legislation also notes that the active involvement of the family's physician is desirable when designing services appropriate for children with developmental disabilities and their families. Providing support and optimizing positive family interactions are crucial to these children. Recommendations to enable the family physician to address more effectively the unique needs of this patient population include (1) an informal screening protocol, and (2) communication skills that include talking with both parents at the same time, using accurate, nonstigmatizing language when presenting a diagnosis, showing acceptance of and optimism regarding the child, encouraging parents to explain their child's problems to others, helping parents to learn about their children's unique needs, and helping parents to understand how their attitudes affect their child.

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