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Case studies: common developmental disabilities

A look at four fictional case study characters with common developmental disabilities.

To enhance our understanding of developmental disabilities, we will look at four fictional case studies, in which we meet four children with common conditions.

These case studies will help us reflect upon the topics of child development and disability, and give us a chance to consider the impact that these conditions can have on children and their families. We will be revisiting these case study characters a number of times throughout the course.

Illustration of a young boy with a hearing impairment. He is dancing and holding a slice of pizza

Case Study 1. Justin: Justin is six years old. He lives in a suburb of Chicago in the United States (high-income country) with his parents and two older siblings. When he was a baby, he contracted rubella, causing moderate hearing loss in both ears. Justin’s family have healthcare insurance and Justin received hearing aids soon after his diagnosis. In recent years, he has been able to receive consistent speech and language therapy. He loves pizza and dancing.

Illustration of a young girl with cerebral palsy. Her aunt is singing to the girl and holding her in her arms

Case Study 2. Thandi: Thandi is three years old. She lives in rural Malawi (low-income country) with her mother, aunt, uncle and three cousins. Thandi’s mother noticed early on that she did not develop in the same way as other children, and Thandi has recently been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Thandi’s mother stays at home and does not work. They are supported by Thandi’s aunt and uncle. Thandi’s mother was distressed when told of her daughter’s condition and when doctors explained that it could not be cured. She has been paying traditional healers to try to cure Thandi’s condition. Thandi likes music and listening to her aunt sing.

Illustration of a young girl with Down syndrome. She is playing football

Case Study 3. Mai: Mai is nine years old. She was born with Down Syndrome. She lives in northern Vietnam (lower-middle income country) with her mother, father and younger sister. She lives an active life within her community and enjoys playing football. Mai’s mother and father have recently started attending a parent support group where they receive advice and support from other parents. As well as football, Mai enjoys drawing with her sister.

Illustration of a young man with autism. He is cooking with his grandmother

Case Study 4. Lucas: Lucas is seventeen years old. He was diagnosed with autism as a young child after his parents noticed that he behaved differently to other children. He currently lives in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (upper-middle income country) with his grandmother. He is a shy and quiet young man, but is prone to bouts of hyperactivity and aggression. His grandmother has relied heavily on a local NGO to help support Lucas. The NGO provides a number of services for children with autism, including peer-support groups and life skills training. Lucas loves to help his grandmother knit and cook.


Select two of these case study characters. Consider how their developmental disability might impact on their lives. For each case study you choose, comment on the impact of their disability on two key life areas from the list below:

  • Child development
  • General health
  • Quality of life
  • Access to healthcare
  • Access to education
  • Social inclusion
  • The lives of their carers
  • The lives of their siblings

Remember to think about the background of each of the case studies. How might their lives be different had they been born in a different country or socio-economic background?

Check out the comments from other learners. Can you see a comment on the same aspects but for a different case study character? Reflect on the similarities and differences between your responses and share your thoughts.

© The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
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Integrated Healthcare for Children with Developmental Disabilities

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