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Just like any patient, those with developmental disabilities should have access to a full range of life-sustaining, curative, and end-of-life services.
Developmental disabilities result in substantial functional limitations in three or more areas of major life activity, including self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.1 Common diagnoses associated with developmental disabilities include cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, autism, and epilepsy.
Accommodations can include disability services, housing modifications, and adaptive equipment.
Physicians can support full inclusion and access to medical care for patients with disabilities by ensuring that their practices comply with guidelines for physical access.7 This may require investments in adaptive equipment, such as wheelchair scales and lifts and high-low examination tables, and implementation of programmatic changes, such as longer appointments, reduced wait times, and home visits.
Physicians should communicate directly with their patients, even those who have communication or cognitive differences.
Communication may include speech, sign language, writing, letter boards, voice output devices, pictures, facial expressions, gestures, vocalizations, and behavior.
Regardless of functional limitations, with appropriate medical care, accommodations, and decision-making support, persons with developmental disabilities can live quality lives in their own homes and communities.
In the medical model, someone with dysarthria might be referred for speech therapy to improve articulation because people primarily communicate through speech.
However, in the neurodiversity model, the individual's most effective means of communication would be accepted because his or her potential for producing clear, fluent speech might be limited, slow, and effortful.
In the medical model, disability is viewed as a deficiency or disease that needs to be overcome.
However, persons with developmental disabilities have a wide range of strengths, challenges, and support needs.