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Pediatr Clin North Am. 1998 Feb;45(1):123-44.

The child who has severe neurologic impairment.

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  • 1University of Rochester Medical Center, New York.


The formulation of a diagnosis in a child who has neurologic impairment should not (except in extreme circumstances) be made on the basis of a single finding. For example, the presence of delayed milestones, primitive or exaggerated reflexes, abnormal muscle tone, abnormal posture, abnormal neurologic examination, and temporal course should all be used to make the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Furthermore, because each condition has a spectrum of disabilities from mild to severe involvement, determination of the child's abilities and impairments should be part of the diagnostic process. Because the child lives in a number of different environments, assessment of the child's functional abilities and evaluation of the environments should be made. Finally, evaluations by specialists in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychology, special education, and nutrition may be necessary to complete the child's diagnosis. The ability to examine the child over a period of time (i.e., continuity of care) allows the practitioner to provide a more accurate prognosis for future development. It also enables easier diagnosis of the child when he or she is acutely ill. This also allows a more trusting relationship to develop with the parent and enhances the ability to influence the psychosocial conditions that affect outcomes. Finally, all these children should have care coordination (case management) (i.e., someone who can ensure that they receive the care they need, without duplication) across all settings, including home, school, hospitals, and ambulatory facilities.

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