This blog post really bothers me:
"Mommy, I Need a Wheelchair"
I really think that they should be listening to the kid and taking her seriously, instead of trying to deny her relief from her pain. Their experiment with giving her a wheelchair at the mall ended up with a very happy child that got up and used her legs when she was feeling up to doing so, but was able to rest and enjoy her outing when she wasn't feeling good. It sounds like she is more concerned with what other people think than with her daughter's comfort.
All she has to do is give it a try, and see if her fears about the girl "giving up" are grounded or not. Otherwise, the kid will give up after a few more years of her pain being disregarded by her parents and doctors. Start listening and giving her comfort NOW so that she does not hate you for it later, or so that she does not sink into depression. Chronic pain is very stressful, and it can lead to other health problems if it is left untreated.
I myself CAN walk, but if I'm hurting badly, or if I know that I'm not going to be able to complete the outing without considerable effort and strain, I will opt for wheels so that I can focus on something other than making it through the day without collapsing. Shopping, visiting a museum, and enjoying a festival are ALL much more rewarding for me if I'm not blinded by the red haze of agony and fatigue. Thank god I am an adult and can speak up and make decisions for myself. If I had to go through this as a child, with my pain being invalidated by those who are supposed to be caring for me, I would be crushingly depressed and perpetually angry. It would make me feel as if I were unimportant, a burden, worthless.
I wish I could do something for that child to make her doctors and family make her pain a priority over the "OMG STIGMA" they are afraid of. Being in a wheelchair, and limiting certain activities (as one doctor suggested she do) is not going to make a person give up. It's simply a reasonable recognition of physical limitations--limitations that can be made up for in other ways. If she's not doing long distance running, then get her involved with a low-impact activity.
Children don't need to engage in hard-core exercise as it is--there's been a significant increase in sports injuries in young children because kids are being pushed too hard to perform at elite athletic levels. Do we really need to expect the same of a child with cerebral palsy who suffers from chronic pain? Activity does not have to involve distance running in order to be physically beneficial--this goes for all ages. Mild-to-moderate exercise is sufficient for health purposes. Gardening, average speed walking, swimming, yoga, and tai chi are enough to keep you healthy without doing damage to your joints. And for someone with chronic pain, it's better to not aggravate sensitive muscles with strenuous exercise.
I am also of the belief that exercise doesn't need to be mindless and boring. Birdwatching combines nature, science, and walking--from a gentle hike through easy trails, to serious hiking with some climbing involved, depending on the venue. Gardening is good exercise, and it is productive and educational. Nature walks down a local stream are also great--my family would often do these, encountering snakes, fish, frogs, turtles, and lots of different plant life. Going to interactive museums and places with "kid zones" are great ways to combine fun and exercise as well. I truly believe that the best way to keep kids active (and reasonably active, not insanely athletic) is to make it interesting.
In a nutshell, I really think the little girl should get her wheelchair, and her folks can then sort out some guidelines and plans for keeping her active when she is feeling up to it. Do it, before her pain causes her any more harm than it already has.