Development of social functioning and communication in school-aged (5–9years) children with cerebral palsy
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The aim of this study was to examine determinants of the course and level of social functioning and communication in school-aged children with cerebral palsy (CP) over a 2-year period. A clinic-based sample of 5 and 7 years old children with CP (n=108; 72 males; mean age 6 y 3 mo, SD 12 mo; Gross Motor Function Classification System (GFMCS) level I-V) was followed longitudinally in three yearly assessments. Social functioning and communication were measured with the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS). Data were analyzed with generalized estimated equations. The results showed that social function followed a course of progressive restrictions over time in non-ambulatory children with CP aged 5-9 compared to children who could walk with or without walking aids. Overall lower levels of social functioning were found in children with GMFCS V, epilepsy, speech problems, lower intellectual capacity and older age at baseline. For communication more restrictions over time were found in children with lower intellectual capacity. Children with GMFCS V, speech problems and older age at baseline had overall greater restrictions in communication. It was concluded that motor functioning and intellectual ability can be used to identify children at risk for progressive restrictions in social functioning and communication. For children with CP and social and communicative restrictions, multidisciplinary assessment and treatment may be indicated to counteract an unfavorable development.
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