Children who have spinal cord injuries, amputations, chronic diseases or congenital birth defects such as spina bifida require special treatment. Pediatric rehabilitation differs greatly from adult rehabilitation because the child is constantly growing intellectually, physically and emotionally. Periodic assessment must be done in order to determine the childhs level of development in all areas and what the child is able to understand about the disability, treatment and prognosis.
The family, of course, is the primary mediator of the child’s development. A parent’s constant grief or guilt because the child was born with a congenital defect, experienced a trauma, or if the child has contracted a chronic disease which may be genetically related, can have a negative impact on the child’s development. It is important that parents receive their own counseling and rehabilitation to provide them with enough emotional resources to cope with the situation. In turn, they can provide more positive feedback to their child, feedback that allows the child to grow and develop appropriately.
As a child reaches adolescence, body image becomes more important than at any age. When there is a disease or disability that makes the adolescent appear different, it can be very damaging to the long-term sense of self and the identity that an adolescent carries into adulthood. Peer interactions are particularly important for children who have disabilities. When these children are teased or taunted by other children who do not have physical problems or who do not understand, it can have a dramatic impact on the growing child’s self-concept. How a child is able to adapt physically, emotionally and intellectually is very important in overcoming their deficit or their difference and moving into independent living as an adult.
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