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WB Lian, SKY Ho, CL Yeo, LY Ho
Correspondence: Dr Lian Wee Bin
Introduction Childhood developmental and behavioural disorders are increasingly being recognised, with high demands for earlier diagnosis and intervention. In Singapore, referrals to the Child Development Unit, KK Women's and Children's Hospital, originate mainly from primary health care practitioners, who therefore should have adequate baseline knowledge of normal development as well as common developmental and behavioural disorders.
Methodology A pilot study, using a questionnaire survey, was conducted, with the aim of assessing existing knowledge in childhood developmental and behavioural paediatrics amongst a cohort of general practitioners (GPs) in Singapore. True/False questions on normal development as well as developmental disorders such as autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disability, were structured. These disorders were selected because of their relatively higher prevalence.
Results A total of 48 GPs were surveyed, representing 2% of non-specialists practising in the private sector. The median total score (T-score) was 9 (range 6 to 13) of a possible 14. Only just over a-third of the group achieved the pass rate (defined arbitrarily as 75%) for T-score, with two-thirds replying correctly to all questions on normal development. Scores for factual ASD/ADHD questions were also not ideal, with some myths being believed as truths.
Conclusion The scores reflect knowledge and educational deficits in developmental paediatric medicine amongst the study cohort. Expected to provide holistic care and counselling, these GPs are currently insufficiently equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to support families of special-needs children. Education and training programmes in this aspect of paediatric medicine are clearly needed, through the organisation of CME lectures and incorporation of various developmental topics into the training curriculum. This will enable early identification and diagnosis of childhood developmental and behavioural disorders, which will in turn allow greater optimisation of potential and functionality in these special-needs children.
Keywords: childhood, developmental, behavioural, knowledge, special-needs
Singapore Med J 2003; 44(8): 397-403