Life Course Perspective for Families of Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs

Viewing events through a life-course perspective can be useful to better understand the experiences of families with children and youth with special healthcare needs. Providing culturally and linguistically competent and family-centered care is greatly enhanced by considering the total life course of the child and other family members. The life course model changes the focus from discrete events of illness or wellness for an individual to the person’s life trajectory beginning with the generations before as a continuum within which events occur. This same refocusing can help better support families and children and youth with special health care needs.

The child’s needs are not discrete and separate from the life course of the family members who care for them. When a child with special health care needs arrives in a family, it is the beginning of that child’s life story. However, that new story begins within the ongoing life course of the family and its existing members—parents, grandparents, siblings and others. Their life course creates the context within which the child with SHCN’s story will play out and the arrival of a child with special health care needs in the family reshapes their life trajectory

Let’s hear directly about the life course of two families with children with special health care needs.

Joan Christoper

Joan Christopher

Joan Christopher is Adjunct Research Instructor of Pediatrics at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, daughter, wife, mother and grandmother.  Learn More


Reyhan Reid

Karla Nicole Jones

Joan’s now adult daughter Karla Nicole Jones (Nicci) is an entrepreneur and owner of her own business, Shred-Em-Up.  Learn More



Karla Nicole Jones

Reyhan Reid

Reyhan Reid is a son, husband and father of three.
Photo by Jennifer Stephens Photography.  Learn More


Meet them and hear about how the life courses of children with special health care needs and their families intertwine.