Aim: To assess a possible therapeutic effect in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy of a habilitation programme in a warm sunny climate.
Methods: Fifty-seven children and adolescents with cerebral palsy, all integrated with normal functioning children through mainstream schooling, received an individualized four-week habilitation programme at a habilitation centre in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. They were clinically assessed before and after treatment, and again after three and six months. The clinical tests included gross motor function measure (GMFM) and the paediatric evaluation of disability inventory (PEDI). Mental health and self-esteem were assessed by using the youth self report (YSR), the child behaviour checklist (CBCL) and the Harter's self-perception profile. We also used focus-group interviews on all 57 parents by the end of the treatment period.
Results: The study revealed some improvements in the level of physical performance. The most striking finding, however, was the lasting effect on behavioural and emotional parameters and the children's self-esteem.
Conclusion: Training in a warm climate may explain some of this positive effect. However, based on the focus-group interviews and its quantitative findings a more plausible explanation may be the interaction in a social setting with others in a similar situation.