Reliability of anthropometric measurements in children with special needs

Arch Dis Child. 2018 Aug;103(8):757-762. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2017-314243. Epub 2018 Mar 17.


Objective: To determine the reliability of anthropometric and body composition measurements in children with special needs.

Design: Observational study.

Setting: Specialist support schools (primary and secondary) in Manchester, UK.

Participants: 53 children with moderate-to-severe learning disability; 30 non-standers (14 boys) and 23 standers (15 boys). Mean ages were 11 years (range 3-20) for non-standers and 12.4 years (range 8-19) for standers.

Measures: Anthropometric measures included: height/length, segmental measures, weight, skinfolds, body circumferences and body composition estimated from bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). These were measured twice, 2-4 weeks apart.

Main outcome measures: Reliability was assessed using the technical error of measurement (TEM).

Results: The TEM for height and supine length was 0.55 cm for standers and 2.47 cm for non-standers, respectively. For non-standers, the TEMs for knee height and tibial length were 0.81 and 1.57 cm, respectively. The TEM for weight was 0.55 kg for standers and 0.75 kg for non-standers. For skinfold thickness, the TEM was smaller for non-standers than standers. The TEM for mid-upper arm circumference for standers and non-standers was 0.91 and 0.82 cm, respectively. The TEM for BIA in standers and non-standers was 34.7 and 54.1 Ω, respectively. Some measurements, including waist circumferences, were difficult to obtain reliably.

Conclusions: Anthropometric and body composition measurements were feasible to obtain in children with special needs. However, the reliability of these measures differs between non-standers and standers and should be considered when choosing appropriate measures.

Keywords: anthropometric measurements; bioelectrical impedance; general paediatrics; reliability; special needs.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Height / physiology
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Young Adult