Learning from mothers: how myths, policies and practices affect the detection of subtle developmental problems in children

Williams, J. (2007) Learning from mothers: how myths, policies and practices affect the detection of subtle developmental problems in children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 33 (3). pp. 282-290.

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Background: Recent research has revealed increasing concerns over the number of children entering school with unidentified developmental problems, even though there are ostensibly comprehensive health services available for mothers and their children in the pre-school years. Recognizing that early detection and early intervention reduce the likelihood of long-term health and educational problems, it is important to understand why so many children are not detected with developmental problems in their pre-school years.

Methods: This doctoral study utilized the knowledge and experience of mothers to draw attention to reasons why children with subtle developmental problems are not identified until school age. A qualitative methodology utilized a synthesis of interpretive biography and literary folkloristics as a method of collecting, reading and interpreting personal stories. Three literary theories, arising, respectively, from the tenets of semiotics, neoMarxism and post-structuralism, were used to critically deconstruct the mothers' stories.

Results: The findings highlight a number of factors that influence the interaction between mothers, health professionals and members of the community, and how these interactions impact on the early detection of children's developmental problems. The findings illustrate the influence of societal myths on how mothers and health professionals view their roles, and on how they think about and respond to the child's problem. They also confirm the value placed on professional knowledge and the role it plays in communications between mothers and health professionals. Finally, they draw attention to how competing arguments about diagnosis and labelling delay identification and access to intervention programmes for children.

Conclusion: Health professionals working with mothers and young children should be aware of how their values, beliefs and communication styles affect their professional practice, especially when interacting with mothers who raise concerns about their children. State policies that limit access to early intervention programmes should also be reconsidered so that young children are not excluded from assistance.

Item ID: 2332
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2214
Keywords: developmental delay; early detection; early intervention; health services; mothers
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2009 04:24
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111707 Family Care @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920401 Behaviour and Health @ 100%
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