Trends in pediatric rehabilitation

Nurs Clin North Am. 1989 Mar;24(1):239-55.


The 1980s have been declared the decade of the disabled. Surgeon General Koop has stated that "it is profoundly important for our own society that we tend to these issues of disabled children, that these children not be forgotten or pushed aside, and that we retain our belief in the strength of the American family". The field of pediatric rehabilitation, unheard of as recently as the late 1970s, has become a recognized specialty. The definition of pediatric rehabilitation has expanded to include the care and treatment of children with congenital and acquired disabilities. The pediatric rehabilitation nurse is challenged to keep abreast of new developments in the field while seeking and implementing innovative ways to assist the child and family in their adjustment to the child's disability. A knowledge base of normal growth and development is essential when assessing abnormal patterns in the child with a disability. Complete assessment of the child with a disability includes a parent-child interview and physical assessment, with particular focus on the child's developmental age, movement patterns, and functional activities of daily living. The reaction of the child and family to the disability is all too often viewed as lack of "acceptance" of the child's disability. A continuum of "adjustment" to the disability for both family and child describes normal coping mechanisms for living with and managing the needs of a disabled child. It is important for the pediatric rehabilitation nurse to develop a partnership with parents in which they serve as consultants to families, not as directors of the child's care. Cerebral palsy and spina bifida are the two most common childhood disabilities. With advanced technologic equipment and refined surgical procedures, the child's potential for independence is reaching new heights. Computerized technology has aided the motor-impaired child to progress through normal developmental processes of exploration and discovery. Specialized health procedures such as tube feedings and clean intermittent catherization have become routine for many children and their families. Advanced technology has also benefited the child who is ventilator dependent, although not without some limitations to the child, family, and society. Limited financial and psychosocial resources create a burden on both the family and society as the child continues to require high technology care. The relatively new field of head-injury rehabilitation provides an arena for pediatric rehabilitation nurses to define specific interventions for the child who is rapidly evolving through the stages of cognitive and motor recovery.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Disabled Persons
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics / trends*
  • Rehabilitation*
  • Schools