The health needs of a child with a learning disability will vary greatly from person to person. At this stage, the most important thing for you as a parent to do is forge links with the health system, and to get to know which professionals to turn to for help for your child.
In many cases your GP will be your first port of call. They will be able to provide you with information on general concerns, for example childhood illnesses and vaccinations. They will also be able to refer you on to many other kinds of specialised support.
Some parents will get support from a paediatrician, a doctor who specialises in working with children who are ill or disabled, and in some areas there are also community-based paediatric nurses. Usually the paediatrician will refer you to a Child Development Centre, where your child's health, social care and early educational needs will all be looked at.
Our GPs were, and are, very helpful. They fit us in at the drop of a hat as they understand that our daughter cannot communicate what is the matter with her.
Some children may have problems communicating or feeding and swallowing, particularly if they have Downs Syndrome or profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). In these cases a referral may be made to a speech and language therapist. If there are concerns about your child eating properly and following the right diet, your GP or paediatrician may also refer you to a paediatric dietician. Your health visitor can also offer support on eating and diet.
Some parents may be interested in postural care, which aims to support and protect the body shape and may be beneficial if your child has problems moving. Postural Care Skills offers training and courses on this type of care. Parents can also get information and advice if their child has problems with continence from the Continence Foundation.
At this stage, sleep may also be a big problem for you and your child. The Handsel Trust offers support for all children with disabilities and their families, and has information about sleep on their website.