Premature Kids Don't Always Catch Up
This information was shared with the parents of the children in the study, which served to allay some of their fears, Barlow says.
"I think it was helpful to the parents to understand that it is not their fault, they didn't cause the problems, and that they commonly happen to preterm children," she says. "And also that it's not the end of the world. You can help children learn to read, and you can help increase academic performance, and the drilling and all of that kind of stuff really benefits children. But you have to understand the problem first. It's not that the child is not motivated" but he or she is still experiencing problems associated with early birth.
Many times, parents are surprised when these problems crop up, Barlow says.
"All of a sudden, the child is socially rejected. Or the teacher is calling up, saying [the child is] having certain problems in school. But they didn't have cerebral palsy when they were born; there was no [brain] hemorrhage, so [parents] assume the child is fine," Barlow says.
The researchers did not evaluate the effectiveness of any special services or treatments the children received, but Barlow says school-based supportive programs, along with parental involvement, are crucial.
"I think that with all children, whether they are impaired or not, and more so if they are impaired, it is important to provide educational enrichment," such as reading to them and involving them in activities outside the classroom, says Barlow.