Caring for children with neurodevelopmental disability: Experiences from caretakers and health workers in rural eastern Uganda

PLoS One. 2020 Jul 27;15(7):e0236488. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236488. eCollection 2020.


Background: Long term outcomes of children with neurodevelopmental disability are influenced by the condition itself, available health services and caretakers' coping ability to nurture the children which may be related to their beliefs and experiences. Most children with neurodevelopmental disabilities live in resource constrained settings. To inform design of contextually appropriate interventions, this study explored health workers' and caretakers' experiences in caring for infants with neurodevelopmental disability in rural eastern Uganda.

Methods: A qualitative case study was carried out in December 2017 and involved in-depth interviews with 14 caretakers of infants with severe neurodevelopmental disability, and five health workers in Iganga/Mayuge Demographic Surveillance Site in eastern Uganda. The interviews with caretakers were conducted in Lusoga, the local language, and in English for the health workers, using a pre-determined open-ended interview guide. Data were analyzed using latent content analysis.

Results: Caretakers described the experience of caring for children with neurodevelopmental disability as impoverishing and 'imprisoning' due to high care costs, inability to return to income generating activities and nursing challenges. The latter resulted from failure in body control and several aspects of nutrition and maintaining vital functions, coupled with limited support from the community and the health system. Many caretakers expressed beliefs in supernatural causes of neurodevelopmental disability though they reported about complications during and shortly after the birth of the affected child. Care-seeking was often challenging and impeded by costs and the feeling of lack of improvement. The health care system was also found to be incapable of adequately addressing the needs of such children due to lack of commodities, and human resource limitations.

Conclusion: The caretakers expressed a feeling of emotional stress due to being left alone with a high nursing burden. Improvement in the health services including a holistic approach to care, improved community awareness and parental support could contribute to nursing of children with NDD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Child
  • Child Care*
  • Communication
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / therapy*
  • Perception
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Support
  • Uganda

Grants and funding

This work was funded by SIDA, under the Makerere-SIDA research support (project no. 344), in the Makerere University- Karolinska Instituet collaboration, which is greatly appreciated. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.