Pre­ma­ture ba­bies catch up

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

LON­DON: Most chil­dren who were born pre­ma­turely do as well at school as those who were car­ried to full term, ac­cord­ing to a study.

Re­searchers, who fol­lowed more than 1.3 mil­lion young­sters, found par­ents’ fears that pre­ma­ture ba­bies would strug­gle, were largely un­founded.

Even those born ear­li­est were not at a sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tage com­pared with their full-term peers, the US sci­en­tists said.

Two in three of those born as early as 23 or 24 weeks into the preg­nancy were ready for kinder­garten on time around the age of five, and al­most 2% achieved “gifted” sta­tus.

Those born be­tween 25 and 28 weeks per­formed only slightly worse than their full-term coun­ter­parts born at around 40 weeks.

And as the length of preg­nancy in­creased af­ter 28 weeks, the dif­fer­ences in test scores by the time they were be­tween 11 and 14 be­came neg­li­gi­ble.

Four years ago, a Bri­tish study sug­gested boys and girls born early were 50% more likely to fail read­ing, writ­ing and maths tests at the end of their sec­ond year at school.

Chil­dren born be­fore 37 weeks of preg­nancy were also more likely to be di­ag­nosed as hav­ing dyslexia, deaf­ness and other prob­lems that class them as hav­ing spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs.

But the lat­est find­ings are more com­pre­hen­sive, analysing ba­bies born from 1992 to 2002 and fol­low­ing them into their teens. Their ges­ta­tional ages ranged from 23 to 41 weeks and they later en­tered state schools be­tween 1995 and 2012.

Pro­fes­sor David Figlio, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Re­search at North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity in Evanston, Illi­nois, said: “While some peo­ple might be trou­bled that very pre­ma­ture in­fants tend to score well be­low their full-term peers on stan­dard­ised tests, I be­lieve the glass is more than half full. Most in­fants born at 23 to 24 weeks still demon­strate a high de­gree of cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing at the start of kinder­garten and through­out school.”

But the data does not ac­count for some of the in­fants’ med­i­cal is­sues re­lated to pre­ma­ture birth or pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about why they did well at school.

Four years ago, a much smaller study of less than 12 000 chil­dren by re­searchers at Bris­tol Uni­ver­sity said that by the age of 7, a third of those born be­fore 37 weeks were at an “ed­u­ca­tional dis­ad­van­tage” com­pared with those born at around 40 weeks. – Daily Mail

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