Friday, 18 October 2013

That All Prematurely Born Children are Geniuses - Ranty Friday


All opinions are my own and not that of my employer.
Yeah I know. Reading comments on the Daily Mail is much more dangerous to your emotional and physical well being than the original article. If you need reminding why the Daily Mail is dangerous to your health, please find attaced Dan & Dan's Daily Mail song.

Joseph in his first week

One of the things about prematurity is that people seem to think once the child is walking, talking, a reasonable height and weight, that it's over.

That your child is all caught up and everything is just hunky dory. They can start school, do well and live happily ever after. Yes Einstein was premature, and Stevie Wonder and Tyson Furey (see!)

There has been new research which my good friend Edspire has comprehensively linked here, which states that children born prematurely are more likely to underperform at school. (quote taken direct from an article, underperforming makes our children sound like circus seals but that's a rant for another day)

The Daily Mail comments are full of "my child was born 6 weeks early and speaks 7 languages and does algebra upside down in her sleep". Jolly good. My child born 13 weeks early struggles to know when to use the toilet, and to mobilise up and down stairs independently.

When a baby is born very early, like Joseph, 13 weeks, they have a fight on their hands. (And for the record some 34 weekers do too, every prematurely born child is an individual)

They are not weeks full of lullabys and love and fluffy time with their parents. They are full of procedures, time in a plastic box, isolation. Infection, life threatening conditions, invasive procedures, painful procedures. Many pre term children continue, on discharge, to have complex medical battles. Children are born with under developed brains which take longer to catch up. It's not an excuse its medical fact. An incubator with a round the clock medical team does not do as good a job as a womb. Simple.

There's no one size fits all solution. Just allowing children to start on the day they should have been born isn't the solution. It's one of them, and I think it should be taken into account definitely, but it wouldn't have helped us.

You see Joseph was due on the 7th August. He was born on the 8th May.

He hasn't skipped a school year. But there is an extreme and palpable difference between Joseph and his peers. He isn't independently toiletting, his mobility isn't as good as other children, he struggles with self care and he gets bone crushingly tired.  This isn't about education, this is about basic ability. Joseph has not fully caught up yet. And that's ok. But it must be taken into consideration. You can't perform well when you are perpetually exhausted. Simple.

He has lost the love of reading at night as he is knackered. His home life is suffering. He needs a bit longer to catch up, and some additional help.

Joseph hasn't got a statement as he doesn't have any identified additional needs.

Ad hoc solutions like sending him in half days etc are not going to work, now term has commenced. Isolating Joseph and making him different from his peers at this stage will be detrimental, and he will not like it.

What I believe is that all children born prematurely should, when they are allocated a school, have an educational assessment and open meeting with the school and LEA and discuss a plan. A premature education plan.

That might involve adjusting the child's start date, it might involve some sort of statement, it might involve nothing, that the child is deemed to have caught up and all is fine and dandy.

More and more children are being born at 23-28 weeks. They have additional needs, and they should be accommodated.

The impact of not doing so is unfair on the child and on the parent, and on the teacher and other class mates.

Prematurity matters.

It does.


  1. I could not have put it better Kylie, Ellen didnt change school year, but instead of being born at easter she was born at christmas..,. That has had an impact on her and thre further up school we get the more obvious the differences are...

  2. My 2 34weekers have had more school related issues (one in wrong year due to early arrival) than my 26 weeker. They could have been full term and had the same issues. I agree that some form of school assessment would be a great starting point but coen wasn't ready to access school effectively till he was around 7. Also the fact most prem babies are more seseptable to every bug going there needs to be a way to access the class work while recovering at home.

  3. It does seem a bit insane that children born prematurely are just abandoned into the education system. The whole system is broken, to be honest. If he is physically and cognitively not coping with the rigours of a full school day, due to his health needs then they SHOULD be able to help him. That's why the "one size fits all, kids start school at x age" thing doesn't work. I think the age they start kids in this country at school is too young anyway, then you add the extra needs of a little one like yours and they wonder why some children struggle? I felt so sad reading your post, so frustrating for you, and hard for him!

  4. I totally agree and often rant that if I still lived in Australia, or if we lived with our relatives in Luxembourg none of this would matter as 4 is just too young to start school!

  5. It's always hard in these situations when we talk about gestational age because sometimes it doesn't make a difference, and preterm is preterm.

    I just think that prematurity doesn't end once they're discharged from NICU and there needs to be a plan in place for children like ours.

  6. Thank you, I find this current argument frustrating as its not just about skipping school years, its the impact premature birth has on development as a whole. And it doesn't just "get fixed" More support for children, parents AND teachers is necessary because lets face it as more pre term babies survive and thrive there will be more at school not less.

  7. I had never really considered any of this before. You are so right though.

    Thanks for making me aware.

  8. Beautifully written as always! I think there are issues all round, have you discussed an IEP with the school? It worked brilliantly for my two premmies (mostly), they have extra high calorie snacks, have activity breaks when they need too. My 27 weeker was very physically able (he walked at 10 months) but at 5 everything was square and everything was green! At nearly 7 he couldn't read and couldn't count past 10, his IEP has been invaluable!....
    Another thing that needs to be thought about is where to draw the line, this extra consideration has caused massive issues for us personally as well, Our on (the 27 weeker) has an ASD, but diagnosis has been an epic journey, a huge fight made interminably traumatic, because every time he got to the stage of seeing the peadiatrician, instead of talking to him they would pick up his medical notes and say "so, he was premature" and EVERYTHING becomes developmental. It's a very sensitive subject for all premmie parents and as such it will inevitably be different for every parent & child. The answer of course is that the education system needs to be more flexible - our job, I guess, is how we can convince them xx

  9. Really interesting post and something, like Mummy Barrow, I'd never really considered, having been lucky enough not to be in this situation. As Donna says below, an IEP may help. Many children have these for a whole variety of reasons, so he would almost certainly be entitled to one. It won't single him out, but will just him give him a little bit extra support - along with about 20% of the kids in his school who will also have them for different reasons.

  10. see I know about statements but anything else. And his teacher didn't suggest anything, I shall do some more research and go better informed after half term.

  11. This is the thing, I had no idea IEP's existed. The teacher hasn't made any suggestions to me. I shall go better informed and fight. It shouldn't be a fight.

  12. Definitely. Also have a look through your schools special needs guideline, it should cover things like children who need just a little extra. On my personally experience schools tend to bring up things like IEPs at parents evenings, frustrating!! But you have the right to meet with your sons teacher at any time, good luck xx

  13. I think every case should be based on the individual, my goddaughter was born at 29 weeks and weighed 1lb (a June baby), yet she went to school on time, if a little smaller than her peers and flourished.

  14. yes that's precisely my point. A one size fits all strategy won't work

  15. definately! I have a friend who's daughter was born prem, it took until she was almost 10(!!) to realise that she couldn't keep up. All because her difficulties were not visibly obvious. It's a hard system to change. (She is now 16 and utterly beautiful, inside and out) x