Paediatric Intellectual Disability in Academia and Policy


1 September 2023

Intellectual Disability (ID) in children is characterised by significant difficulties in both intellectual functioning (e.g. understanding and communicating, memory and executive functioning, learning, problem solving) and adaptive behaviour (e.g. activities of daily living and everyday routines and social skills). To help those with ID reach their full potential, early identification and intervention are critical. Since they are more likely to have additional disabilities and/or co-morbid conditions such as other neurodevelopmental (e.g. autism, ADHD, tics) and mental health (e.g. anxiety, depression, behavioural issues) disorders, comprehensive assessment and appropriate intervention of these co-existing conditions is important.   

This episode of Psych Matters covers the importance of early identification and how a public health approach to reaching “all” children is an important first step coupled with the need for clinicians involved in the care of ID to consider assessing and managing comorbid psychiatric diagnoses as diagnostic overshadowing is common in individuals with ID.  

Prof Valsamma Eapen MBBS., PhD., FRCPsych., FRANZCP  is Professor and Chair of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney & Head, Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry South West Sydney (AUCS). Eapen is also Director of BestSTART Child Health Academic unit; Chair, Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, RANZCP; and Treasurer and President Elect of International Neuropsychiatry Association. Clinically trained in India and the UK, Eapen completed advanced training in Child Psychiatry at the Great Ormond Street Hospital Rotational Scheme and Institute of Child Health, and PhD from University of London with research on Tourette Syndrome undertaken at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Known internationally for expertise in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and Tourette Syndrome, Eapen’s work has a focus on health equity. Eapen has published over 350 articles, 6 books and >50 book chapters and is currently part of research programs totalling >40M in funding. 

 Professor Richard Harvey has been a consultant psychiatrist since 1998. He trained in the UK and migrated to Australia in 2003. He has held a variety of clinical positions in public and private in Australia. He is a Clinical Professor at Deakin University and is currently in private practice. He is the Chair of the RANZCP Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Steering Group and he is also the Chair of the RANZCP Committee for Continuing Professional Development.
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