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Childhood Disability Assessments for the Family Court - Dr Mark Burgin

12/09/23. Dr. Mark Burgin BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP considers how disability analysis reports can determine what adjustments will lead to the best long-term gains.

The court needs to know what a child’s special needs are as well as what their potential is so that they can set reasonable objectives for the child’s development.

Whether the family environment can satisfactorily provide for a child’s needs depends upon determining the right target and how it can be achieved.

Families can be as damaged by squandering a child’s abilities as believing a child is gifted who will never repay the resources provided to them.

When assessing a child’s disability it is essential to determine the likely cause so that reversible causes can be addressed promptly and proper resources made available.



There are seven areas of ability that the expert should consider logical, spatial, language, interpersonal (social), intrapersonal, kinaesthetic (movement) and music.

The expert may need to formally test any areas where there is insufficient evidence available from educational or play sources, some skill at video games may be required.

Where the child has never been exposed to significant amounts of a particular area of ability the expert should recommend that this is included in the curriculum.

Where potential is outside of the skills of an expert to determine they should recommend that the child should attend a centre where learning and assessment can be controlled.


Functional Restrictions

The same functional restrictions are considered in children as are in adults but the expert must also determine the likely cause and whether they have been diagnosed or not.

Behaviour has different presentations depending on the genetics, exposure to nutrition and toxins and the emotional environment and these patterns can be recognised.

This allows the expert to offer opinions on whether a change of environment will materially change the problems the child has with for instance learning or behaviour.  

The expert should be realistic as to how much improvement can be made when giving a prognosis as local authorities do not have the resources to investigate every child.


Reasonable adjustments

The court needs to understand what changes can be made to the child’s environment and the likely effects of those changes to be able make a decision about the child’s future.

Where a family have not been supported by the local authority this can be an opportunity to point out the simple steps that can be taken to improve the situation.

Disability in one area is consistent with higher performance in another and setting a goal that the child can attain with little extra cost can be rewarding for the family.

Disability analysis can be used to recognise where there are problems not explained by the medical diagnoses that suggest other problems that can be material.



To those who are used to lengthy reports from medical experts, educational experts and social workers (such as the CAFCASS reports) disability reports can appear brief.

The methodology is simple and easy to follow so the court can use the analysis to answer questions that have not been addressed by the expert.

The disability analyst works with the child’s observed and reported behaviours, the education and medical evidence to explain the child’s restrictions.

The report explains to court what is causing the restriction, where it came from and how it can be addressed and how effective interventions will be.


Doctor Mark Burgin, BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP is on the General Practitioner Specialist Register.

Dr. Burgin can be contacted This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 0845 331 3304 website

This is part of a series of articles by Dr. Mark Burgin. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own, not those of Law Brief Publishing Ltd, and are not necessarily commensurate with general legal or medico-legal expert consensus of opinion and/or literature. Any medical content is not exhaustive but at a level for the non-medical reader to understand.

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The opinions expressed in the articles are the authors' own, not those of Law Brief Publishing Ltd, and are not necessarily commensurate with general legal or medico-legal expert consensus of opinion and/or literature. Any medical content is not exhaustive but at a level for the non-medical reader to understand. 

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