To describe the pattern of comorbidities in school-aged children with cerebral palsy (CP) and to identify which, if any, were associated with poor school attendance.
A cross-sectional study, using the key informant methodology, between December 2017 and July 2018 was conducted in Cross River State, Nigeria. Assessments, confirmation of CP and identification of systemic comorbidities using standard tools and questionnaires were performed. Children confirmed to have CP between the ages 4 to 15 years were included.
Three hundred and eighty-eight children were confirmed to have CP, 59% males. The mean age was 9.2 years ± SD 4.0; 28% were non-ambulatory (gross motor function classification system (GMFCS) level IV-V) and spastic CP was seen in 70%. Comorbidities included Speech impairment 85%, feeding difficulties 86%, and swallowing difficulties 77%, learning difficulties 88%, abnormal behaviour 62%, visual acuity impairment 54%, objective perceptual visual disorders 46%, communication difficulties 45%, epilepsy 35%, hearing impairment 12% and malnutrition 51%. Learning difficulties (OR 10.1, p < 0.001; CI: 3.6–28.1), visual acuity impairment (OR 2.8, p = 0.002; CI: 1.5–5.3), epilepsy (OR 2.3, p = 0.009; CI:1.2–4.3) manual ability classification scale 4–5 (OR 4.7, p = 0.049; CI:1.0–22.2) and CP severity (GMFCS V-VI) OR 6.9 p = 0.002, CI: 2.0–24.0.) were seen as increasing the likelihood of poor school attendance.
Comorbidities were common, and some were associated with limited school attendance. A multidisciplinary tailored approach to care, with application of available therapeutic interventions for comorbidities is suggested. This may be useful in reducing barriers to school attendance.