Cerebral palsy children ‘happy’
Children with cerebral palsy are just as happy as children without the condition are, a study has shown.
Their physical impairment does not have a negative effect on their relationships, moods or welfare, researchers report in The Lancet.
Experts said the study of 500 children aged 8-12 years with cerebral palsy underlined the importance of supporting disabled children to lead full lives.
Cerebral palsy affects around one in 400 children in the UK.
It results from the failure of a part of the brain to develop before birth or in early childhood, or brain damage which permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination.
Most children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later.
Previous studies have attempted to look at the quality of life of children with cerebral palsy but they focused on physical effects of the condition or relied on the views of parents.
A team of European researchers, led by the University of Newcastle, asked the children themselves about several aspects of their lives and compared their responses with those from children of the same age in the general population.
The questionnaire covered areas such as physical and psychological wellbeing, moods and emotions, self-perception and relationships with parents, friends and school.
On most of the areas, children with cerebral palsy had similar scores to the general population.
The only exceptions were schooling for which the results were not clear and physical wellbeing which could not be compared.
However, the researchers did find that pain was associated with lower scores across all aspects of quality of life and recommended it be carefully assessed in children with the condition.
Study leader Professor Allan Colver, professor of community child health at the University of Newcastle, said: "Parents can be upset when their child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, but they can now be reassured that most children with cerebral palsy experience similar quality of life to that of other children their age."
He said doctors needed to learn to talk more directly to the child.
"For example, for a lot of children, there’s a lot of effort in helping them to walk.
"But usually if a child goes into a wheelchair they suddenly become much more mobile and from the child’s point of view it can transform their lives even if from an adult’s point of view it seems like a step backwards."
Policies and resources must be in place to make sure children with cerebral palsy are allowed to participate fully in society, he added.
Andy Rickell, an executive director at the cerebral palsy charity Scope, welcomed the study.
But he cautioned: "The action it recommends on social and educational policy must include tackling the specific barriers faced by disabled children, such as not being able to attend a local school near their family or to access vital equipment in order to communicate.
"These findings based on children’s perceptions of their quality of life, whilst instructive, should not detract from the stark reality for hundreds of thousands of disabled children across the UK."