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The University of Southampton

Children and young people's attitudes to their prosthetic limbs are focus of Southampton conference

Published: 16 July 2008

It is rare that conferences are organised specifically to share the results of a research study with its participants and their families.

But this happened for a group of children and young people with limb absence who took part in a University of Southampton research project exploring their views of prosthetic limbs. The research is a partnership between the University and two charities: the Meningitis Trust and STEPS. It is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

The conference entitled Our bodies, our views! Children and young people's attitudes to their prosthesis was held at the University's Avenue Campus recently and aimed to share the findings of the study, direct future research in this area and encourage the exchange of information relating to children, young people and prosthetics.

Of the 145 delegates that attended the conference, almost half were participants and their families from across the UK. The other delegates included healthcare professionals, academics and the general public.

Dr Maggie Donovan-Hall, a researcher and lecturer in chartered health psychology, and Suryana Mohamad, a PhD student at the University of Southampton presented the initial findings of the project, which is the first to ask children and young people with limb absence their views on artificial limbs, rather than asking their parents. The research team also includes Professor Lucy Yardley, who is co-principal investigator.

Final results from the research project - which consisted of two studies, one with older children and young people between 11 and 18 years of age and another with young children between 5 and 10 years of age - will be available in September.

The keynote speaker was Helen Smith, who lost all her limbs through meningitis while still a student. She spoke of her experiences of prosthetic limbs and her initial struggle for prosthetics that met her needs. The afternoon workshops were both serious and fun, and included a chance for younger attendees to interview and video record each other, as well as for parents and clinicians to discuss their views and the direction of future research.

Dr Donovan-Hall explains: "All too often, the results of research studies are not shared directly with the people they are meant to help, but just shared with other researchers. We wanted to organise an informal conference to involve everyone who has helped us with our research and who has a real interest in what might happen in terms of health policy and approach as a result of our findings."

Kristian Rigby, a young person who participated in the study said he enjoyed the conference tremendously, adding: "It has made me more determined than ever to pursue my career with people with disabilities."

Notes for editors

  • The conference was sponsored by Ossur; Otto Bock; Opcare, and the Dorset Orthopaedic Company, and a crèche was provided by the Sunshine Pre-school and Day Nursery.

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.

    This is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

    We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

    As one of the UK's leading research universities, we offer first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering.

    We have over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover in the region of £350 million.

  • For further information

    Sue Wilson, Communications, University of Southampton,
    Tel. 023 8059 5457, email:

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