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Journal Issue: Children with Disabilities Volume 22 Number 1 Spring 2012

The Changing Landscape of Disability in Childhood
Neal Halfon Amy Houtrow Kandyce Larson Paul W. Newacheck


Current data indicate that the number of children with disabilities is increasing and that the nature and type of health conditions responsible for these impairments is dramatically changing. Despite improvements in recognition, early intervention, diagnosis, and a range of treatment and intervention programs, significant social disparities persist. Lack of long-term longitudinal cohort data and of appropriate measures of the array of potential influences that could be responsible for these worrisome trends hamper our ability to fully understand their causes and inhibit formation of more strategic, responsive, and effective policies, programs, and interventions. The negative implications for health care, dependency, and educational costs of a growing number of disabled children lend urgency to the need to better understand and address this growing health, economic, and social liability. We call upon policy makers at all levels of governance to engage in a process that will strengthen existing data systems and lead to the development of programmatic enhancements to reduce the prevalence and severity of childhood disability. Special attention should be given to eliminating long-standing disparities in the prevalence of disability.