By now you’ve probably heard the news: the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for more research on the effects of disabilities on children’s well-being.
That’s a major change from a few years ago, when the organization’s lead child psychiatry official, Dr. Jeffrey Nussbaum, was a vocal advocate for research into how to prevent and treat disability-related conditions.
But it’s a topic that has become even more of a priority over the past decade or so, as research into the effects that childhood disabilities can have on children has become more prevalent.
To understand how and why we are now taking such a serious look at this issue, we spoke with Dr. Nussbaums research director, Dr Emily Johnson.
So why is the NIH taking such an interest in this issue?”
The National Institutes of Health is committed to funding research on this topic, but we’re not the only organization that is interested in understanding this.”
So why is the NIH taking such an interest in this issue?
Johnson, who is also the chair of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), is the director of the Center for the Developmental Disabilities of Children and Youth.
The NICHD is a branch of the NIH’s National Institutes for Health.
NICHD has been funding research into disability-focused interventions for decades.
Since the 1970s, NICHD funded programs designed to prevent disability in children and adolescents.
The agency has funded programs for adults and children since the early 1990s, and now it’s exploring how to do the same for children.
“What’s really happening is that these groups are realizing that there’s a gap between what we know about children’s disability, and what they know about adults’ disability,” Johnson explains.
Nussbaum says it’s important to focus on what they’re learning.
“The best research studies look at people with disabilities, not how much they can do,” Nusskaes research director.
“So we want to find out how much work is being done on these issues that are not being addressed by the research, and how much of that work is in the kids’ education program.”
What can we learn from research into child disability?
As a child, Nussaums first thought that his mother had Down syndrome.
But after seeing a documentary about the experiences of a child with Down syndrome, he began to think about what he might learn from his mother’s experience.
“I’m a very big fan of this movie ‘American Ultra,’ and I saw a lot of the research,” Nusbaum says.
“I remember that it really got to the heart of why I wanted to be a scientist, and why I want to be an advocate for science in general.
The documentary, which I’ve watched over and over, really gave me hope.”
That hope led Nuss to work with NICHD to conduct research to determine what the research on children with disabilities meant for adults.
That research led to the publication of the most recent edition of the American Journal of Pediatric Psychiatry, which discusses the research into children with disability.
In a new article published this month in the journal Pediatrics, Nusbaums team examined how children with Down Syndrome are different from adults with the condition.
“Children with Down’s syndrome have a different way of thinking about their disabilities,” Nuzbaums says.
This difference may be partly due to their ability to develop cognitive and behavioral skills before they have disabilities, but it’s also related to their social and emotional development.
“For example, children with the disability have an advantage in the classroom, which is another factor that makes them more successful in school,” Nisbaums points out.
It’s also possible that children with a disability have different interests, which can make it difficult for adults to learn about them.
For example, in addition to being able to learn from their disabilities, children who have disabilities can be very creative.
While Nussbach and Johnson are quick to point out that this research is not an endorsement of any specific program, they are adamant that the results show that “the research is telling us something important about what’s happening with children and their disabilities.”
So what does that mean for children?
Johnson says that research shows that children who experience disabilities are likely to be more socially awkward and socially disengaged than children who do not have disabilities.
The researchers say that it’s up to parents to educate their children about disabilities, so they can develop the skills necessary to cope with the challenges they face.
“Parents need to be aware of their children’s disabilities and have a plan to help them understand their limitations,” Johnson adds.
“We want our children to know that they can get better, and we want them to have the confidence to make their own decisions.”
In the next article, N