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Case studies: communication

In this discussion, we will consider communication with four case study characters who have developmental disabilities
An illustration of our four case study characters. A teenage boy standing with his grandmother. A boy clutching his cheek. A girl with her hand up in refusal. A girl sat on her daughter's knee

To further our understanding of effective communication, we would like you to discuss the following scenarios with our case study characters (Justin, Thandi, Mai, Lucas).

An illustration of a boy with a hearing aid is sitting on a chair clutching his cheek. He looks in a little pain. He is looking up at a sign of a tooth Case study 1. Justin: Justin has a hearing impairment. His local dentist does not know sign language. Justin needs to have a filling in his tooth and will need to follow the dentist’s instructions during the procedure.

An illustration of a young girl is sitting on her mother's knee as the mother sits crossed legged on the ground Case study 2. Thandi: Thandi received a diagnosis of cerebral palsy when she was 2 years old. Her mother was told that the condition could not be cured, but she did not believe the healthcare professionals, and spent a lot of money seeking care from different healers who promised that they could help her child.

An illustration of a girl with Down syndrome who has her arms crossed and is turning away from a hand with two pills Case study 3. Mai: Mai has Down syndrome and epilepsy. She is not always keen to take her epilepsy medication as it makes her feel drowsy. She can get very angry with her parents when they ask her to take the drug and she often refuses, causing her to have seizures.

An illustration of a teenage boy holding his grandmother's hand as he waves towards us Case study 4. Lucas: When Lucas was a young boy, he started exhibiting a number of challenging behaviours. Although diagnosed with autism, the healthcare professional was unsure of the prognosis for Lucas over the coming years and did not know how his functioning would be affected. His grandmother was adamant that the healthcare professionals give her clearer answers about his prognosis.


For each of the scenarios, consider:

  1. How should the healthcare professional respond to the situation? Think about the message to be communicated and the language they should use.
  2. What information would be important to gather before responding?
  3. Who else might the healthcare professional involve in this conversation?
  4. Are there any communication aids or techniques they could use?

We encourage you to think on your own experiences and perspectives when discussing how to communicate with these children and their families. We look forward to reading your suggestions in the comments section below!

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

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