Advances in medical care have improved the survival of infants who are born weighing one or two pounds. However, a new study shows these babies are at risk for school difficulties later in life.
A number of studies now document the prevalence of neurological, behavioral and intellectual impairments of school age children who were born in the early era of neonatal intensive care. These studies suggest these children are likely to have a lower IQ and lower academic achievement scores than children born at a normal weight.
Researchers from Canada, led a large study to determine if there is an association between learning and school problems and an extremely low birth weight in children from different countries.
The study included children who were between one and two pounds at birth. The participants were from New Jersey, Ontario, Bavaria (Germany) or Holland. The children underwent academic tests when they were between 8 and 11 years old. Information about the children's academic levels was obtained including whether or not they repeated a grade.
Researchers report only between 44 percent and 62 percent of the children in each of the 4 groups were in the normal range for IQ. They also found between 46 percent and 81 percent read at a normal level and between 31 percent and 76 percent were on par in arithmetic. Overall, children from New Jersey had the lowest rates of cognitive and achievement deficits. Researchers say more than half of all the participants required special educational assistance and/or repeated a grade.
Hence researchers ,conclude school difficulties are a serious concern of low birth weight infants in all four countries. They add, as doctors continue to save low birth weight infants, it is imperative that current survivors be followed to school age to provide a more complete picture of their overall outcome.
They feel this information is necessary for parents and health care providers.