2. Special Educational Needs
Children born preterm are more likely than children born at term to have Special Educational Needs (SEN). The more preterm a baby is born, the greater the risk they will have SEN later in life.
This graph shows the percentage of children in primary and secondary schools in Scotland who have SEN, in relation to their gestational age at birth. SEN is defined here as a learning difficulty that requires special educational provision. This includes learning disabilities as well as physical disabilities that may impact on learning. Select the graph to hear more about these rates of SEN following preterm birth.
Play the video for an interpretation of the graph
Using national information obtained from schools in Scotland, this graph shows the proportion of babies born at each week of gestational age who go on to have SEN. The X axis at the bottom of the graph shows each week of gestation from 24 weeks on the left through to full-term at 40 weeks on the right.
The bars show the percentage of children born at each week of gestation that have SEN. The higher the bars the greater the percentage of children with SEN.
You can see from the shape of the graph that for each week earlier a baby is born the rate of SEN increases. On average, the rates of children with SEN are equivalent to about 1 in 20 children who were born at term, 1 in 12 children who were born late or moderately preterm, and 1 in 5 children who were born very preterm.
You will notice that the rates of SEN are highest for babies born before 26 weeks of gestation. However, it is important to remember that only a small proportion of babies are born at these gestations. There are many more babies who are born at 34-36 weeks of gestation and so, although the chance of having SEN is lower, this is the group you are most likely to encounter in your classroom.
MacKay, D. F., Smith, G. C. S., Dobbie, R., & Pell, J. P. (2010). Gestational Age at Delivery and Special Educational Need: Retrospective Cohort Study of 407,503 Schoolchildren. PLOS Medicine 7(6): e1000289.
We thank the authors for the additional data used to create this graph.