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How do I know if my child has a physical disability?

What are physical needs or disabilities?

Physical needs or disabilities can affect a child or young person's ability to move, their ability to use their hands and feet to carry out everyday activities, and their stamina (the 'energy or strength to keep going'). Physical disabilities can vary widely: some children may have difficulty crawling, walking or running (sometimes known as 'gross motor skills'); others might find it difficult to write or use their hands to hold things such as scissors, or cutlery (sometimes known as 'fine motor skills').

Physical disabilities can arise from a range of conditions which affect the way a person's muscles work. Conditions which affect the brain’s ability to process information, and communicate with the rest of the body to produce movement are known as 'neurological'.  You can be born with physical and neurological conditions, or they could be caused by injury - for example, a brain or spinal cord injury.

If you have concerns about your baby or young child's physical development, it might be worth checking whether they have reached the expected milestones for their age.

Talk to someone about your concerns

Your first step might be to talk to your Health Visitor or GP

  • They may watch your child’s movements or carry out some simple tests.
  • They will talk to you about your concerns.
  • You could consider taking some photographs or a video of your child to the appointment to help the professional see why you are concerned.
  • If the doctor or health visitor shares your concerns, they may refer your child to a paediatrician (specialist children’s doctor) or a physiotherapist.

If you have a general question about your child's physical development, speak to an Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist on the Advice Line  (ages 0-18)

This is a phone line run by The Children and Young People's Therapy Service for parents, carers and professionals. 

01923 470680 (then select option 3, option 1, leave a message on the Advice Line and a therapist will contact you)
Open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day

If you have concerns about supporting your child's physical needs in school, speak to the Physical and Neurological Impairment team Advice Line (ages 5-25)

The Physical and Neurological Impairment team  are specialist advisory teachers who work with parents and schools to support children and young people with physical and/or neurological impairment. 

You can talk to them about concerns you might have about meeting your child's physical needs in the classroom.

01442 453920 
Mondays 1.30 - 4pm (term time only)

  

Supporting your child's physical needs at home and at school

Self help resources for home and in the classroom

Our resource area has lots of practical information and advice for helping to support your child's movement, including videos like this one from the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust.

Equipment for home and in the classroom

You might find your child needs specialist equipment to help their movement. The Occupational Therapy team can refer you to get what you need from Hertfordshire Equipment Service. 

Other support for home

Our Support at home page has some other useful services that could help you:

  • free courses and workshops from health professionals and other parents - learn strategies and methods for supporting your child's needs.
  • Short Breaks - you might be able to get 40 hours of subsidised activities and club for your child, giving you a little break occasionally.
  • Home care support - for children with very complex needs, you may be able to get some help at home.


Other support at School

The physical and neurological impairment (PNI) team support children and young people from 5 - 25, by helping staff in schools to have strategies in place that will help a pupil access learning along with their classmates.


Services you can be referred to

This service supports children and young people with their independence in all aspects of daily living, such as self-feeding, dressing and participating in play and school activities. For ages 0 - 18 (or 0 - 25 with an EHCP). Your Health Visitor, GP or school can refer you to this service.

This team supports children and young people who have a physical disability or condition that impacts on their development and their functional daily activities at home or in school. For ages 0-18. Your Health Visitor or GP can refer you to this service.

This team of doctors and specialists work together to support and diagnose children with developmental disorders and neuro-disability. Your GP or Health Visitor can refer you to this service.

Treats patients of all ages who are unable to access dental treatment from their local high street dental service and provide a caring environment for patients with special needs. Your dentist can refer to this service, or you can self-refer.

Condition specific services

Children and Young People's Chronic fatigue service (East and North Herts)

This service aims to enable the patient and family to manage life with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME. For ages 0-18 in East Hertfordshire. You can be referred to this service by a Paediatrician.

Learn more about the Children and Young People's Chronic Fatigue Service

Children and Young People's Continence service (West Herts)

For children and young people aged 4 - 18 in West Hertfordshire, who are experiencing daytime wetting, night-time wetting and /or constipation/soiling/withholding. A parent or professional can refer to this service.

Learn more about the Children and Young People's Continence Service

Children and Young People's Epilepsy service (East and North Herts)

For ages 0-18 living in North and East Herts. This service runs dedicated epilepsy clinics, with specialist epilepsy nurses and consultant paediatricians with an additional qualification in epilepsy. Your GP can refer to this service.

Learn more about Children and Young People's Epilepsy Service

Musculoskeletal Service (East and North Herts)

For ages 8+ living in East and North Hertfordshire. A specialist assessment service for patients with conditions that affect the bones, joints and muscles. Your GP or consultant can refer to this service.

Learn more about the musculoskeletal service

Integrated Musculoskeletal Service (West Herts)

Herts Valleys Integrated Musculoskeletal Service provided by Connect Health supports patients (ages 8+) with conditions related to bones, soft tissues, muscles, joint and ligaments. They also help with other issues such as chronic pain, fatigue and postural stability. You can be referred by a doctor if you are in West Hertfordshire.

The service offers clinics and services in the community so you do not need to attend a hospital.

Learn more about the Integrated Musculoskeletal Service

Services for older children and adults:

For ages 18+. This service is made up of a specialist, multidisciplinary team of professionals, highly experienced in working with patients who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and/or chronic pain. Your GP can refer to this service.

The Neuro Community Rehab team offers specialist rehabilitation to patients over 18 with a confirmed neurological diagnosis in East and North Hertfordshire. You can self-refer to this service, or be referred by a health professional.


Organisations that can help

Scope provide practical advice and emotional support through the Scope helpline, their online community, and a range of support services

Supports children and adults with coordination difficulties or dyspraxia/DCD, affecting large (gross motor) and small (fine motor) body movements.

U.K's leading charity for people affected by muscle-wasting conditions. Information, advice, care & support.

Supports families affected by childhood acquired brain injury. They focus on early intervention and helping to reduce potential long-term difficulties associated with childhood acquired brain injury.

This charity has highly trained team of specialist physio, occupational and speech and language therapists who have a deep understanding of cerebral palsy (CP), in all its complex and various forms.

Page was last updated on: 19/12/2022 14:54:45

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