Diseases & Conditions


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Low birth weight


Low birth weight infants are at risk for a wide range of health, behavior, and learning problems. Recent research has suggested that extremely low birth weight children from age seven through adolescence have poorer reading and math skills; children whose birth weight was less than 2 lbs. lagged behind their peers academically and displayed other subtle behavioral characteristics which undermined their efforts at school. Poor motor skills and neurological immaturity were defined in many of the children. This is becoming more of a concern since modern medicine can now save many infants with very low birth weight who would have died in the 1980s. In fact, infants whose birth weight was as low as 1 lb. 8 ounces, born after 24 weeks of gestation, have survived in neonatal intensive care units. Many neonatal intensive care units have followup programs to assess the development of children and initiate early intervention strategies, as needed. Unfortunately, physicians traditionally have not received much training in the area of child development and disabilities, although pediatric and family practice training programs today include rotations in child development and rehabilitative services for children. Such assessments are vital since some studies have found that middle class, low-birth-weight children may not require special education services if they receive strong parental support. Early childhood educational partnerships between home and school are essential to help keep low birth weight infants on target in their development.