This is question I am often asked. My key thought in responding is that these children are often ‘wired differently’ – their brains are not configured as those of a full term infant might be. This does not automatically imply that they will have a learning disability or special educational need, but teachers need to be prepared that that these children may not perceive and deduct from information given, in the ways we usually expect from children.
Indeed, to repeat again the phrase given to me by the mother of a boy born at 24 weeks gestation after observing his first term in school, he is ‘wired differently’ . As a as a Teacher I then have so ask , “so of he is wired differently , in what ways does he learn differently ? And when I know how he learns differently, in what ways do I teach differently?”
Many teachers find the Engagement Profile (http://engagement4learning.com), a useful observational tool to profile neurodiversity in children, particularly as we start a new academic year.
This article may guide and refresh thinking around how we engage children whose learning pathways are different due to prematurity of birth.
The article on pages 1 -6 of the Special Education Resource Journal ( Special Issue), documents research carried out in a Primary Classroom, as part of the National DfE funded Project on Children with Complex learning Difficulties and Disabilities. Professor Carpenter presents the work with the Primary Class Teacher, Debbie Wiggett, and two members of the CLDD Project Research Team, Bev Cockbill and Jo Egerton.
On average a primary school class will have four children born preterm, and many of them will have reduced cognitive capacity, social and behavioural difficulties and learning disabilities. Up to 70% of very preterm babies will require special educational needs services. But according to the National Forum for Neuroscience in Special Education, reported in an article in the latest issue of Children & Young People Now, few teachers are aware of this.
Barry Carpenter, visiting professor at the University of Worcester, is studying the educational outcomes and needs of preterm children in special schools, in partnership with SSAT and premature babies charity Bliss. He says addressing the educational needs of preterm children has become more urgent as advances in medical science have boosted survival rates – from 23% in 2000 to 63% today.
Vision is one sensory area that tends to get damaged. So teachers need to be aware that these children’s visual processing – the ability to read and decode – can be delayed, as can their language development.
SSAT will share the findings from Barry Carpenter’s studies in special schools for the benefit of mainstream schools, for example with a families workshop to share the strategies schools can use to meet this group’s needs. Stay informed by signing up to SSAT’s SEN e-forum.