Previous Disability Research


    Over the past 20 years, the Department of Developmental Medicine has developed a strong national and international reputation for disability research. The research undertaken by the Department has been published in around 90 articles in refereed journals and in text book chapters. Research funding of over $2 million has been achieved to support this program. The Department has also presented numerous papers at national and international conferences. The research has resulted in significant improvements in the way we treat children with disabilities and some of the research achievements to date include:

    1. Programs based on Conductive Education for young children with cerebral palsy are as effective as other approaches and suit some families well. This approach is now an accepted form of intervention;
    2. Children with severe cerebral palsy have a high frequency of hip dislocation whilst those with mild cerebral palsy have only a low risk. Therefore regular Xrays are necessary in those with severe cerebral palsy but need only be performed if clinically indicated in those child with mild cerebral palsy who walk independently (collaborative project with orthopaedics);
    3. The Melbourne Assessment of Upper Limb Function for Children with Cerebral Palsy was developed and is now used nationally and internationally to evaluate a range of programs, to determine optimal outcomes for children with cerebral palsy (collaborative project with occupational therapy);
    4. A Quality of Life Measure for Children with Cerebral Palsy has been developed and will be useful in assessing outcomes of clinical interventions;
    5. Children with cerebral palsy have an increased frequency of undescended testes - as a result careful screening of boys with cerebral palsy takes place (in conjunction with general surgery);
    6. Children with severe cerebral palsy often develop hypothermia in the presence of severe infections, prompting clinicians to look carefully for signs of infection in children presenting with hypothermia;
    7. The beneficial long term effects of saliva control surgery have been documented, encouraging ongoing use of these procedures;
    8. Orthodontic appliances have only a very limited role in saliva control;
    9. Saliva surgery leads to increased possibility of caries in incisor teeth, particularly in those with poor dental hygiene. As a result, a dentist works in the saliva control clinic and checks all children prior to saliva control surgery and at regular intervals for up to five years after the intervention. With this increased dental surveillance, the high frequency of dental caries is no longer seen;
    10. Influenza is more likely to have severe impact on children with disabilities, resulting in prolonged hospital stays compared with able bodied children. This has encouraged clinicians to recommend the use of fluvax in children with severe disabilities.