Prognosis for survival and improvement in function in children with severe developmental disabilities

J Pediatr. 1997 Nov;131(5):712-7.


Objective: To derive prognostic data for survival and clinical improvement in children with severe developmental disabilities.

Study design: A 13-year follow-up study of several cohorts of children initially evaluated before their first birthday. The outcomes studied were survival and improvement in condition. Methods were used to overcome limitations in previously published work on the same California data base. Of the 11,912 children who received services from the California Department of Developmental Services between January 1980 and December 1993, we focused on three cohorts defined according to mobility and need for tube feeding.

Results: Children who were tube fed and unable to lift their heads by ages 3 to 12 months were at high risk for early death, with a median remaining life expectancy of 3.2 years. Of those who survived an additional 2 years, the condition of about one third improved. A substantial majority of those who either showed improvement or died had done so by that age.

Conclusion: By age 5 years, the prognoses for survival and improvement have to a large extent been clarified. For children who survive to age 5 years, even those in the lowest functioning cohort have a 60% chance of surviving an additional 5 years. Detailing the probabilities of various outcomes at various ages should be useful to parents, pediatricians, and others concerned with children with developmental disabilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • California / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / mortality*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Prognosis
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Rate