|Vol. 5, No. 2, 1999 Page 2|
Learning disabilities, attention deficits, and poor language skills are strong risk factors for delinquency and criminality. While researchers have known for many years that prematurity is a risk factor for all of these impairments, a new study suggests t that the deleterious effects of prematurity have been grossly underestimated.
Miriam Cherkes-Julkowski recently studied 28 premature infants (less than 38 weeks gestation, birthweight less than five pounds) with no overt evidence of impairment. At age 5, she says, 75 percent of the preterm children were categorized as having or sus spected of having learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, language impairment, mild neurological impairment, or general academic problems. In comparison, only 25 percent of a group of children not born prematurely exhibited any of these proble ems.
“Prematurity,” she concludes, “seems to be a condition from which only a small percentage of children recover intact.”
Cherkes-Julkowski, who began studying her premature subjects when they were infants, says that a significant number of them showed evidence of attention deficits even at 13 and 15 months of age.
“Learning disability, attention-deficit disorder, and language impairment as outcomes of prematurity: a longitudinal descriptive study,” Miriam Cherkes-Julkowski, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 31, No. 3, May/June 1998, pp. 294-306. Address s: Miriam Cherkes-Julkowski, U-64, Educational Psychology Dept., University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269.