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Study Highlights Need for Early Learning Intervention in Some Children with MS

Study Highlights Need for Early Learning Intervention in Some Children with MS

Italian researchers compared cognitive function between 63children with MSand 57 controls without MS, and found significant impairment in about one-third of the children with MS. The study results highlight the need for early interventions – such as accommodations that can be made in school – to address cognitive function in children with MS. Interventions of these types are among the comprehensive services offered at the National MS Society’s network ofPediatric MS Centers of Excellence. Dr. M.P. Amato and colleagues (University of Florence, Italy) report their results in the May 13 issue ofNeurology(2008;70:1891-1897).

An estimated 8,000-10,000 children have multiple sclerosis in the United States, and another 10,000-15,000 experience disorders that may be related to MS. Cognitive changes are common in adults with MS, and although children with MS can experience difficulties remembering and concentrating, the extent of these problems is not known.

In the current study, researchers administered a battery of 17 neuropsychological tests to 63 children with MS (in this study, defined as aged 17 and younger) referred to Italian MS centers and 57 children without MS. Among children with MS, 31% failed at least three tests – indicating significant cognitive impairment – compared with less than 5% of children without MS. A small percentage (8%) of the children with MS had very low IQ scores, compared with none of the children without MS. The investigators also found a link between low IQ scores and earlier onset of MS symptoms.

These results highlight the need for addressing cognitive function early in children with MS, a major effort of the National MS Society’s nationwide network of six Pediatric MS Centers of Excellence. “Identifying cognitive problems early can lead to appropriate interventions,” says Deborah Hertz, MPH, Associate Vice President of Medical Programs for the National MS Society. “The team of professionals at each of our pediatric centers includes neuropsychologists who perform comprehensive cognitive evaluations. There are strategies that children can use at school to compensate for attention, memory and other cognitive impairments, such as moving a child’s seat to the front of the class. We need to identify these issues as early as possible so that we can minimize their impact on children with MS.”

Read moreabout Pediatric MS and the programs and services offered by the National MS Society.