Original Research

How pain management for children with cerebral palsy in South African schools complies with up-to-date knowledge

Ensa Johnson, Stefan Nilsson, Margareta Adolfsson
African Journal of Disability | Vol 8 | a575 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v8i0.575 | © 2019 Ensa Johnson, Stefan Nilsson, Margareta Adolfsson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 September 2018 | Published: 22 November 2019

About the author(s)

Ensa Johnson, Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Stefan Nilsson, Children, Health, Intervention, Learning and Development (CHILD), Jönköping University, Jönköping, Sweden; and, Institute of Health and Care Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Margareta Adolfsson, Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; and, School of Education and Communication, Jönköping University, Jönköping, Sweden; and, Swedish Institute of Disability Research, Jönköping University, Jönköping, Sweden


Background: Pain in children with cerebral palsy (CP) has its sources in musculoskeletal problems that can influence learning in a school setting. Best pain management is essential for these children, but school staff may not keep up to date with the latest developments and interventions. Therefore, staff’s perceptions of beneficial strategies may not comply with contemporary scientific knowledge about effective evidence-based interventions.

Objectives: This study investigated how pain management intervention for children with CP in South African schools complied with international scientific knowledge about evidence-based interventions. The intention was to provide support for an update of knowledge on both individual level (i.e. professionals) and system level (i.e. decision makers).

Method: Five focus groups were conducted with staff members at five schools for children with special educational needs in South Africa. Manifest and latent content analyses of professional statements identified interventions reported as beneficial and related them to higher and lower levels of intervention evidence as reported at the time of data collection.

Results: Most treatment strategies concerned motor functioning that fell within the framework of physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Access to orthopaedic expertise was limited, waiting times were long and medication for spasticity treatment was not offered.

Conclusion: A discrepancy between published evidence and clinical practice for pain management in children with CP in South African school settings was noted. Suggestions for improved early intervention to identify children’s hips at risk through surveillance programmes; and orthopaedic management are proposed to prevent deformities and unnecessary suffering in South African children with CP.


evidence-based practice; intervention; clinicians; children with cerebral palsy; pain management


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