A disability is defined as any impairment that impacts an individuals’ daily tasks or ‘core activities’ (communication, self-care or mobility) and has lasted, or is likely to last, more than 6 months1. Disability encompasses physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory and neurological conditions or a combination of these2. The severity of a disability can range from mild (needs no help and has no difficulty with core activities but uses aids or has impairments in other areas) to profound (unable to do or always needs help with core activities)1. In 2012, 7% of children aged 0-17 in Australia were experiencing disability3.
Around two thirds (67%) of Australian children with a disability require assistance with daily activities (e.g. communication, mobility, self-care). Many children with disabilities have learning and social difficulties at school4. In addition to challenges faced by the child, disability impacts the entire family unit. The assistance and care (both formal and informal) of a child with disability often results in parents and/or carers having reduced income, increased expenses, poorer emotional and physical wellbeing and strained relationships4. Significant evidence has supported the effectiveness of early intervention for children with developmental disabilities4.
Across the life span, having a disability is associated with poorer health behaviours and adverse health outcomes5. Further, disability is associated with poorer social engagement and education. These outcomes could be related directly to the disability itself or a result of limited access (due to an individual’s disability) to appropriate information, services and support that foster wellbeing. People with disability have higher rates of mental illness, psychological distress, arthritis, smoking and a range of other health conditions than the general population5.
Given the challenges and needs of children with disability and their families, understanding the proportion of children with disability in particular geographical regions can assist policy makers and service providers in decision making to improve outcomes.
- Australian Bureau of statistics [Internet]. Canberra ACT. 4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings. 2015 [cited 2018 May 15]. Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4430.0
- Government of Western Australia. Disability Services Act 1993, Government of Western Australia.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics [Internet]. Canberra ACT. 4427.0 - Young People with Disability, 2012 [cited 2018 May 15]. Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats%5Cabs@.nsf/0/FCF8C781B2CB45AFCA257CC9001442E3?Opendocument
- Australian Bureau of Statistics [Internet]. Canberra ACT. 4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, Jun 2012. 2012 [cited 2018 May 15]. Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Jun+2012
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [Internet]. Canberra ACT. Australia’s Health 2016; Australia’s Health Series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. 2016 [cited 2018 May 15]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2016/contents/summary
- Mackenbach JP. Oxford Textbook of Global Public Health. Socioeconomic inequalities in health in high-income countries: The facts and the options [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2018 May 16];6. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/med/9780199661756.001.0001