smiling girl with down syndrome adopted from China surrounded by smiling adoptive parents and two brothers

Defining Disabilities and Medical Needs

Disabilities are common, with 15% of the world’s population experiencing some form of disability. Disability is defined as any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities and is a broad term that includes a range of conditions and disability types.

When a child has a disability, they may need some additional support or resources as they grow and develop. Children with medical needs include those who have a chronic illness or medical condition that affects growth, development, nutrition and/or feeding. Disability and medical needs are common in children who are adopted.

Conditions

Children with disabilities or medical needs may require health and health-related services beyond basic, routine care. Conditions that may require some additional support or health care resources include:  

little girl with Down syndrome laughing with parents

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Most Common Challenges 

Challenges children may encounter include:

  • Abnormal growth (i.e., underweight, overweight and/or short stature or stunting) 
  • Inadequate food intake to support growth and health 
  • Feeding problems related to oral-motor difficulties (difficulty sucking, swallowing, chewing) and/or behavioral difficulties (easily distracted or stimulated, food refusal, aggressive behavior) 
  • Low muscle tone 
  • Medication-nutrient interactions 
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea 
  • Need for enteral (tube) feeding 

Nutrition and Health

All children require good nutrition to grow and develop. Children with disabilities or medical needs may have more frequent, long-term problems that could alter their growth, diet, feeding and eating behaviors, as well as their bowel and fluid habits. Children can become ill more often and for longer periods of time when these problems are not adequately addressed.

The nutrition and feeding problems that children with disabilities or medical needs experience can be improved or controlled, but often are not completely resolved. Therefore, children diagnosed with disabilities or medical needs may require ongoing and periodic nutrition screening and intervention, and the participation of a team to provide interdisciplinary care. 

adoptive parents receiving parent counseling with their adopted child

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All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.

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