Extra Struggles For Kids With MS

Certain mental and physical tasks are a challenge for many children with multiple sclerosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Childhood is an important time for developing skills and learning. Spotting and treating any developmental problems early is of special importance for those managing conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS).

A recent study looked at mental functioning in children with MS.

Researchers found that one-third of children with MS in this study had difficulties with some assigned tasks.

The most common problems seen involved motor coordination. That is, some children with MS had issues with the ability to control the small muscles of the body in coordination with the eyes and controlled hand movement guided by vision.

"Discuss your child's learning and development with a pediatrician."

Lauren B. Krupp, MD, of the Lourie Center for Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis at Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital, and colleagues examined cognitive functioning in 231 children under the age of 18.

Cognitive function is a person’s ability to process thoughts and mostly refers to areas of memory, learning new information, speech and reading comprehension. Aging and disease can lead to cognitive impairment and result in memory loss, trouble thinking and verbal difficulties. 

In this study, 187 participants were diagnosed with MS and 44 had experienced their first medical incident that suggested they had MS.

The smaller group, or those who had a medical incident suggesting MS was present, were considered to have clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). CIS is a way of categorizing those who have not yet been diagnosed with MS.

The study participants were given eleven tests over two and a half hours. The tests assessed general ability, reading and language, attention, working memory and processing, focusing, verbal learning and recall, and ability to coordinate hand and eye movement.

A patient was considered impaired if more than one-third of all the tests had scores indicating impairment.

The researchers included disease duration, diagnosis status, age of disease onset and disability in their analysis. They also factored in variables like age, gender, ethnicity and geographic diversity when creating the sample.

The study showed that 35 percent of MS patients and 18 percent of those with CIS had some cognitive impairment.

The most common areas of impairment were the ability to control the small muscles of the body in coordination with the eyes, controlled hand movement guided by vision, and the ability to quickly take in raw sensory input and make sense of it.

Dr. Krupp noted that these findings are important for early detection and intervention in children with MS who are having cognitive difficulties. Intervention may begin during school and continue on throughout life.

Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, PhD, Director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation agrees that these findings are important. "Such an understanding is particularly important when working with children with neurologic disease as unrecognized and unaddressed cognitive impairments often increase in magnitude and impact as brain development continues," said Dr. Chiaravalloti.

The study authors suggested that future research develop strategies for identifying which children with MS are at a higher risk for cognitive problems.

The study was funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and published in the Journal of Child Neurology.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 14, 2013
Last Updated:
February 25, 2013