Learning and Education

Girl painting with tempera
Disabilities that affect the brain are also likely to have an effect on learning and education. In general, premature babies, especially extremely premature and low birth weight babies, do not do as well at school as children born full-term. Studies show premature babies are below average in the first years of school, are more likely to be in need of special education, are less likely to finish high school and even less likely to attend university or college.

Although these statistics are not particularly positive, they do not mean that any one particular premature baby will grow to be a child with a learning disability. Additionally, learning disabilities can take many forms from nearly undetectable to quite severe. Learning disabilities can also be very broad, affecting much cognitive ability and memory, or they may be very specific, affecting learning in a very narrow way. Knowing a premature baby is more at risk to have a learning disability as a child allows parents, health professionals, and educators to take steps to diminish the effect of the disability.

Attending follow-up clinics can help parents detect and address these types of problems early, which is one of the most constructive ways of diminishing their effect. If no follow-up clinic specific to premature babies exist in your area, ask you paediatrician about further help and testing that may be available.  

More information

Andrew James, MBChB, MBI, FRACP, FRCPC