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Facts

Nursing Care for Children with Disabilities 

April 22, 2022

  Disabilities in children arise either due to birth defects or accidents in the later years of life. These defects hinder the way in which multiple body parts and systems work. Nursing care for children with disabilities focuses on detailed health assessment as a primary factor.  Right from asking the parents about the diagnosis to coordinating with health professionals involved in the treatment plan, everything is important. When dealing with disabled children, parents are the best resources for information. This is why parent education is considered crucial if a child has been diagnosed with a new condition.  If caring for disabled children interests you as an option for nursing in Canada, keep reading to know more about them. 
  1. Nutritional Considerations: The number of children who are facing chronic illnesses and disabilities is increasing with each passing day. There are many reasons for this increase. Many of these conditions need high-quality medical interventions so that malnutrition or other eating disorders can be prevented. 
It also requires making changes to difficult feeding problems. This is why nutritional considerations form an important aspect while completing the nursing courses in Canada. Chronic conditions require therapeutic diets for managing symptoms and preventing psychological harm.  Referring the child to a dietician for a detailed explanation can be helpful. An occupational therapist can help the family with a well-designed plan and feeding instruments that can help the child to eat well.   2. Family Centered Care: It is necessary for the nursing profession to be knowledgeable about the child’s condition and complications involved. With suitable recognition and the family’s ability to care for the child along with the healthcare teaching when the need arises, the self-esteem of family members also increases.  Family-centered care forms an important aspect of nursing in Canada. The parents and child’s adjustment to the disability will depend on the seriousness of the disability. A child’s response is strongly influenced by the response of the family, friends, and peers.  When dealing with a disability, a child’s coping mechanism is influenced by temperament, self-concept, and developmental stage. Nurses can observe and document the functional level of the child, and assist the child to set realistic and short term goals for healing.  Encouraging stimulating activities help the child cope better with disabilities. You can collaborate with the child’s family to develop a manageable plan of care that prevents discouragement and exhaustion.    3. Pediatric Rehabilitation: Youngsters with permanent disabilities may adjust to them while achieving developmental tasks. Completing even the most basic everyday tasks can become difficult for children when they are dealing with physical and emotional distress.  To make sure that the child can manage these everyday tasks well, there is a need for a rehabilitation therapist. A nurse can suggest the appointment of specifically trained therapists who work with the child and the family. This training can occur either in a specialized setting or a home environment.  An important aspect of paediatric rehabilitation is behaviour modification, which helps in developing skills related to speech and personality. Behaviour modification includes positive reinforcement which encourages a child to repeat the desired behaviour.  A nurse can ask the child to repeat these skills as many times as possible before the child learns them properly. If the child is intellectually impaired then the task should be made as simple as possible. Little things like praising the child when the task is done correctly can go a long way.  4. Feeding the Child: Children with disabilities may also need support when they have to be fed. After completing the nursing education, professionals are trained regarding an important skills, which is to feed the patients.   If you are caring for children with disabilities, follow these steps to ensure that the child is being fed properly 
  • Make sure that the child is positioned correctly. It is always preferred the child is in a sitting position. 
  • Teach the child to drink from a cup and chew properly. 
  • Remind the child to swallow the food. 
  • Place the food on the side of the child’s mouth and not in the centre. Do not rush this process so that choking can be prevented. 
  • Encourage the child to use the lips for removing food from the spoon and bite off pieces of food. Move the food in the mouth with the tongue. This can also help in preparing the child for speech. 
  • Make sure that the eating process is pleasant. If possible, make sure that many people are eating together. 
  • Allow the child to do as much self-feeding as possible while keeping the table neat and clean.   
 5. Long Term Care: Children with long term disabilities or degenerative disorders may also go to the hospital for a long period of time. They may also be readmitted often. These children need special nursing care. It is essential to establish a sense of trust with them.  Mostly, a child who returns often will have the same nurse. If you are that nurse then you should ensure that the child learns self-care as soon as possible. Make sure that you reinforce teaching while giving children special responsibilities that increase self-worth.  You can plan according to the child’s physical and emotional needs by considering the age, sex, family environment, medical problems, and developmental stage. All children should have a sense of security which is why basic needs are important.  Do not forget that children in long term care need to learn independence. You must allow them to do as much as possible while assisting them. Long term care can involve treatments and diagnostic tests that lead to physical discomfort and apprehension.  You should make an effort to minimize fears by allowing caregivers and children to talk about their concerns. Answer the questions simply and truthfully. Focus on what children can do during a painful procedure. Explain the treatments before they are done and also encourage socialization. 

Conclusion: 

Taking care of children with disabilities requires sensitivity, empathy, and responsibility. You are dealing with a patient who is struggling at physical and emotional levels already. Hence, you must make sure that along with clinical treatment, the child is also being supported emotionally.  Following guidelines and consulting with the family members will make the caring plan for children with disabilities a lot easier. Hence, make sure that you follow all the guidelines properly. 

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