MEETING THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES

Reviewed by Olive Potterton, Senior Speech & Language Therapist, Sisters of Charity of Jesus & Mary Services

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This book is recommended reading for professionals and parents and, indeed,anyone closely involved with children with special needs. The author, Helen Warner, and fellow-contributors are nurses by training, but their treatment of this subject is wider based than the medical model—current buzz words such as best practice, interdisciplinary and person-centredness are included, as one might expect. But Warner’s book goes further than most, tackling emotive issues such as acceptance and carer stress, in addition to the usual topics. The underlying theme throughout is the importance of building relationships between families and professionals.

Theories are supported with practical checklists and the text is well referenced. The introductory chapters outline the historical and ethical context of disability, endorsing the rights of the individual to a quality service. These chapters help to set the scene and highlight how perspectives have altered over fifty years.

As a speech and language therapist, I found the section on communication and feeding of particular interest. Warner describes how language is acquired and the development of eating and drinking patterns. She identifies difficulties which may interfere with the normal process and suggests practical solutions to problems. Alternative and augmentative methods of communication and personal passports are covered in some detail. Oral motor exercises and useful guidelines are also included.

Pain is a major worry for carers and especially the fear that pain may go undiagnosed in the acute setting. A proportionate amount of text is dedicated to pain—recognising and defining it. The Paediatric Pain Profile is recommended as an assessment tool. In this context the author also discusses altered responses and sensory integration theory—breaking down this rather complex area into small understandable bites.

The section entitled ‘Behaviour, attachment and boundary-setting’ attempts to identify and rationalise some of the feelings which parents encounter—using models of adaption and acceptance. This is tricky terrain to negotiate, but it is handled empathetically and in a clear way, such that the reader feels informed and better able to help parents come to terms with their reality. There is also advice on physical intervention and managing difficult behaviour, which again may be an issue for parents and carers who are in this situation. The importance of accessing appropriate respite care is greatly emphasised.

Meeting the Needs of Children with Disabilities presents as a very comprehensive reference book, packed with useful contact addresses and supported by research. It challenges the ‘a long time at it’ professional, such as myself, to re-examine their traditional roles and practices and to look beyond the disability to the person and their family. It commends the adaptive capacity of parents. Warner et al. give freely of their knowledge and experience. This is an excellent reference book and well worth having to hand.

MEETING THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, edited by Helen K. Warner (2005) London: Routledge Publishers. IBSN: 0-415-28038-9 paperback £22.99

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