Aim: To examine the incidence of educational and therapeutic resource dependency in a group of very preterm children at 8 years of age.
Methods: All children with a gestational age less than 30 weeks, who survived to discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, between 1987 and 1994, were prospectively enrolled in developmental follow-up. At 8 years of age, information regarding resource dependency was obtained from parents and teachers using interviews and questionnaires. Standardized psychometric measures of cognition and academic achievement were administered.
Results: Information was obtained for 365 (73.3%) of surviving 8-year-old children; 65 (17.8%) had a neurosensory disability and 24 (36.9%) children in this group were in full-time special education. In those without neurosensory disability (n=300), seven (2.3%) children were already in full-time special education for an intellectual deficit. Among children in mainstream education, 154/293 (52.5%) had received or were still receiving additional assistance in some form (part-time special education, grade retention, therapeutic intervention or private tutoring). Difficulty in literacy was the most commonly reported problem. Resource dependency was not related to gestation nor predicted by intelligence in children without neurosensory disability, but was related to maternal education. Children who had had or were continuing to receive part-time assistance showed delays in academic skills at assessment.
Conclusions: A high level of on-going resource dependency exists in this group in an attempt to maintain grade appropriate achievement. Resource dependency is not related to gestation in neurologically normal children. General cognitive measures of intelligence do not predict these problems in the majority of children.