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Priority 4

How can we ensure that healthcare delivery in hospital meets the needs of children and youth with developmental disabilities on the general paediatric inpatient unit (GPIU)? 

Concrete Wall

Developmental disabilities refer to a group of conditions due to impairments in physical, learning, language, or behaviour areas. Usually presenting during the early stages of child development, developmental disabilities include, but are not limited to: autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, hearing loss, epilepsy, Down Syndrome, Tourette’s Syndrome, intellectual disability, learning disability, and/or vision impairment. 

Gaps in Evidence

Studies show that children and youth with developmental disabilities are much more likely to present with a wide range of child emotional and behavioural problems than their counterparts without such diagnoses. As such, literature dedicated towards this population includes programs designed to reduce child emotional and behavioural problems, interventions regarding the education of parents of children born prematurely on best practices for stimulating language development in their child, and guidelines of conduct for health and social care professionals in supporting children and youth with ASD. However, these resources are not specific to care in general paediatric settings. To remedy this gap, research is needed to help better understand and define the impact of developmental disabilities among children and youth on the care they receive when hospitalized. 

Directions for Future Research

Potential research questions and/or directions for future studies include, but are not limited to: 

Fostering Tailored Care

  • How are incorrect assumptions regarding non-neurotypical children among healthcare providers impacting paediatric hospital care?  

  • How should healthcare providers anticipate which patients with developmental disabilities will require specialized or alternate care in the acute setting?  

  • What initiatives are available that can help mitigate behavioural challenges among children and youth with developmental disabilities (e.g. in hospital environments and policies)?

  • What training is available to hospital staff regarding treating children and youth with developmental disabilities?

  • How can hospital staff be equipped with the necessary knowledge needed to treat children and youth with developmental disabilities?

Inpatient Location and Outpatient Experience
  • Is the inpatient setting the best location of care for children and youth with developmental disabilities?  

  • What plans are in place to evaluate outpatient programs for children and youth with developmental disabilities once discharged from hospital?  

  • What physical space amendments can be made in the GPIU to accommodate patients with developmental disabilities (e.g. sensory supports)?


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