A qualitative analysis into children’s experience of living with cerebral palsy.
D Clin Psy thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Introduction: Research suggests that children with disabilities are at increased risk of experiencing psychological difficulties. Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of physical disability in childhood and one that has been investigated mostly from the stance of the parent. Given this, the current study aimed to investigate the experience of living with cerebral palsy from the perspective of the child.
Design: Eight children (aged 9-12 years) diagnosed with cerebral palsy and attending mainstream schools were recruited. A qualitative cross-sectional design was adopted and data were collected via a series of semi-structured interviews. Transcripts were coded using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
Results: Four super-ordinate themes were identified: sense of self, participation, autonomy versus dependency, and dealing with others. Themes are discussed in relation to relevant literature.
Discussion: Issues raised by participants suggest that children with cerebral palsy encounter both attitudinal and structural barriers to achieving similar developmental tasks as their peers. The impact of which may result in feelings of being different from peers, of rejection and hopelessness, all of which may impact on their sense of self and lead to psychological difficulties. Children with cerebral palsy should be supported in achieving independence and professionals should be aware that males and females may differ in both the issues they face and the methods through which they cope. Screening for the early identification of psychological difficulties is strongly recommended. Parents and professionals also need to be informed of the impact that the school environment may have on children with cerebral palsy.
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