Mental Health in Children with Cerebral Palsy: Does Screening Capture the Complexity?
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Introduction: Children with cerebral palsy (CP), one of the most common childhood neurological disorders, often have associated medical and psychological symptoms.This study assesses mental health problems compared to population controls and the ability of a mental health screening tool to predict psychiatric disorders and to capture the complexity of coexisting symptoms.
Methods: Children with CP (𝑁 = 47) were assessed according to DSM-IV criteria using a psychiatric diagnostic instrument (Kiddie-SADS) and a mental health screening questionnaire (SDQ). Participants from the Bergen Child Study, a large epidemiological study, served as controls.
Results: Children with CP had significantly higher means on all problem scores including impact scores. Two in three children scored above 90th percentile cutoff on Total Difficulties Score (TDS), and 57% met criteria for a psychiatric disorder, yielding a sensitivity of 0.85 and a specificity of 0.55. Mental health problems coexisted across symptom scales, and peer problems were highly prevalent in all groups of psychiatric disorders.
Conclusion: A high prevalence of mental health problems and cooccurrence of symptoms were found in children with CP compared to controls. Screening with SDQ detects mental health problems, but does not predict specific disorders in children with CP.ADHDis common, but difficult to diagnose due to complexity of symptoms. Mental health services integrated in regular followup of children with CP are recommended due to high prevalence and considerable overlap of mental health symptoms.