Families of 3,937 children were contacted at the age of 5.5 to participate in a medical and neuropsychological assessment specifically set up for the study. 3,032 children participated, or 68% of the initial cohort.
A group of full-term children (between 37 and 40 weeks of amenorrhea) were also invited to participate in this follow-up. It consisted of 600 children included in the population of the Elfe survey (French Longitudinal Survey since Childhood) which took place over the same period in France. This group serves as a benchmark for health and development indicators.
An initial analysis of the collected data provides very interesting results, summarized below.
Children’s development at 5 years and half : minor difficulties that need to be considered
At the age of 5 years and a half, 34% of extreme premature births, nearly 46% of very premature births and 55% of those born moderately premature do not present any difficulties.
However, the greater the prematurity, the more moderate or severe neurodevelopmental difficulties children have (including motor, vision, hearing, or intellectual disabilities).
Regardless of the degree of prematurity at birth, more than one-third of children experience minor difficulties. For the most part, these difficulties require appropriate support and management to prevent them from having an impact on the child’s daily life or learning. They can therefore have a significant impact on the life of the family and the education of the child. They are a source of concern for nearly 55% of the families concerned.
Limited support to deal with these difficulties
Unfortunately, the proposed supports do not meet the needs of all children. Indeed, 25% of extremely preterm children with severe disabilities have no specialized support (speech-language pathologist, psychologist, psychomotor, etc.). The same is true for 65% of moderately premature children with moderate difficulties.
A complicated school journey
The more preterm the child is, the more children’s education needs to be adapted. 93% of moderate preterm children are enrolled in regular classes (without specific support) versus 73% of extreme preterm children.
While a vast majority of children with difficulties receive school support before entering grade 2, 20 to 40% of children with severe difficulties unfortunately do not. This observation is very damaging since the earlier the child is helped in his or her school career, the easier his or her integration is.