Occupational Therapists' Perceptions Of Preterm Children's Academic Difficulties In The Early Years Of Mainstream Schooling
Giatsi Clausen, Maria
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Giatsi Clausen, M. (2011) Occupational Therapists' Perceptions Of Preterm Children's Academic Difficulties In The Early Years Of Mainstream Schooling, no. 419.
Preterm infants born before 37 weeks of gestation constitute up to 10% of all births, and can display development that, frequently, differs from those of full- term infants. Studies indicate that school children born preterm present with a, generally, higher incidence of performing poorly academically. The present study investigated the perceptions of paediatric OTs regarding the type of difficulties with which children born preterm present, and explored the role of OT. In the first, quantitative part of this study, paediatric OTs completed a postal questionnaire (N=353). The second, qualitative part, used asynchronous, online discussions (N=13), by utilising the virtual environment of WebCT, to further explore the topic. The survey was also designed to capture: • information on the extent of this paediatric population within OT services, and how identifiable and accessible it is • OT practices when working with these children • what informs therapists’ clinical decision making. The discussion groups provided a forum for OTs’ “reflexive comment” on the issues emerging from the questionnaire analysis. Despite sensorimotor and attentional difficulties reaching the highest frequencies, the findings revealed rather a combination of problems in most developmental domains. Writing emerged as the predominant problematic area within the school curriculum. A “persistence” of sensorimotor difficulties throughout the preschool years also emerged. More frequent and/or severity difficulties, more medical issues, a higher co morbidity of SLD with other conditions for the preterm group, were other findings. These insights could lead to a further exploration of the need for differentiating assessment and treatment practices for this group. Occupational therapy was highlighted as particularly “advantageous” for this population due to a number of OTspecific contributions e.g. ability to “detect “subtle” difficulties at a young age. The implications of a “shift” of more OTs into the area of early intervention, are discussed. The findings of the study constitute tacit, professional knowledge, and they are based on subjective clinicians’ views. They could, however, help frame hypotheses to be further explored verified with the use of empirical research. KEYWORDS: Prematurity; Specific Learning Difficulties; Early Intervention; Paediatric Occupational Therapy; School; Clinical Decision Making; Assessment; Intervention; Survey; WebCT; Asynchronous Online Discussions