Born early: early care and education for young children born prematurely

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Born early:  early care and education experiences of young children born prematurely

 Dr. Carolyn Blackburn and Dr. Merryl Harvey (supported by BLISS http://www.bliss.org.uk/)

Each year in England, around 10,000 children are born very preterm (at less than 32 weeks gestation) and a further 60,000 are born moderately preterm (at 32-36 weeks gestation). The number of preterm births has increased in the last two decades, and more preterm children are surviving due to improved neonatal care (National Neonatal Audit Programme, 2015). However, the prevalence of cognitive, behavioural and emotional problems in preterm populations has not changed. In particular, children born preterm have been found to experience specific learning problems including difficulties with mathematics, visual-spatial skills, memory and attention.

There is still much we do not know about the nature and spectrum of these learning difficulties, their long term consequences, and how to deal with them. In particular, there is controversy about whether moderately preterm children experience similar but milder learning problems than children born very preterm. Teachers and educational psychologists receive little formal training about preterm birth and are often not aware of appropriate strategies to support preterm children in the classroom. Informing teachers about the special constellation of problems following preterm birth is crucial in preparing them to support the growing number of preterms entering schools in the coming years (Campbell, 2015; Carpenter et al., 2015).

Studies have explored parents’ experiences of having a child born prematurely. However, these studies have generally focused on the months immediately following the birth and have taken a health and social care perspective (Harvey el al, 2013; Garfield et al, 2014; Gray et al, 2013). Quantitative studies have also examined the development of children who were born prematurely and have identified the learning difficulties that they face during early childhood (Marlow, 2004; Johnson et al, 2010; Costeloe 2012). Parents’ experiences of early years education is an under-researched area.

The benefits of early care and education early intervention (EI) have been well documented in policy and research in terms of improving outcomes for children at risk of or identified with SEN. Whilst not all children born prematurely will be identified with Special Educational Needs, ongoing monitoring of their learning and development (as is evident from Carolyn’s work at the Champion Centre, NZ) has the potential to ameliorate any future delays or difficulties.

.This study aims to explore the early care and education experiences of children born prematurely through reports from parents in order to identify best practice in early care and education and provide advice and guidance for policy-makers and early educators. Research questions include:

  1. What are the early social experiences of young children born prematurely (as reported by parents)?
  1. What are parents’ memories of their children’s developmental milestones?
  1. Where children are attending early years settings, what are parents experiences of this, were there any difficulties/problems in finding suitable childcare provision?
  1. What advice/support do early years workers need to support children born prematurely and their families?

The first phase of the research will be a family survey.  More details to follow.

References

Campbell, D. Premature babies more likely to end up in lower- paid jobs. The Guardian 1st September 2015

Carpenter, B., Egerton, J. Cockbill, B., Brooks, C., Fotheringham, J., Rawson, H. And Thisthtlethwaite, J. Engaging learning with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. London: Routledge

Costeloe KL, Hennessy EM, Haider S, Stacey F, Marlow N, Draper ES. Short term outcomes after extreme preterm birth in England: comparison of two birth cohorts in 1995 and 2006 (the EPICure studies). BMJ, 2012;345:e7976

Garfield CF, Lee Y, Kim HN (2014) Paternal and maternal concerns for their very low-birth-weight infants transitioning from NICU to home. Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing; 28 4 305-312

Gray PH, Edwards DM, O’Callaghan MJ, Cuskelly M, Gibbons K. (2013) Parenting stress in mothers of very preterm infants – influence of development, temperament and maternal depression. Early Human Development; 89 9 6250629

Harvey, M.E. Nongena, P. Gonzalez-Cinca, N. Edwards, A.D. and Redshaw, M.E. (2013) Parents’ experiences of information and communication in the neonatal unit about brain imaging and neurological prognosis: a qualitative study, Acta Paediatrica, 102(4): 360-365.

Johnson S, Hollis C, Kochhar P, Hennessy EM, Wolke D, Marlow N. Autism spectrum disorders in extremely preterm children. J Pediatrics2010;156:525-31

Marlow N. Neurocognitive outcome after very preterm birth. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2004;89:F224-8

National Neonatal Audit Programme (2015) Annual Report on 2014 data. http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/improving-child-health/qualityimprovement-and-clinical-audit/national-neonatal-audit-programme-nnap (accessed 11/04/2016).

Award ceremony for WCMT Travelling Fellowship

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Carolyn with Professor Brian Clarke©Clive Totman 2016

On Wednesday 18th May, I travelled to London with 128 other Fellows to receive my Winston Churchill Fellowship Medallion from Professor Brian Clarke at a prestigious biennial award ceremony.  The event was held at Church House near Westminster

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The Churchill Fellowship Medallion

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Musicians played whilst Fellows registered

Church House has significant Churchillian associations as during the Blitz, Winston Churchill requisitioned Church House as a makeshift Houses of Parliament after the originals had been damaged by bombing. It was also from Church House that he made his famous speech announcing the sinking of the Bismarck on 24th May 1941. It was an ideal venue to hold the event.

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The Agenda for the event included a talk from Brian about his own Fellowship following an introduction from the Chair of the Advisory Council, Anne Boyd and a presentation from the Chief Executive Julia Weston.  The Hon Jeremy Soames made the concluding remarks before Afternoon Tea was served for Fellows and guests.

The Travelling Fellowships provide opportunities for UK citizens to go abroad on a worthwhile project of their own choosing, with the aim of enriching their lives through their global experiences – and to bring back the benefit to others in their UK profession or community through sharing the results of their new knowledge.

Twenty two Fellows received awards in the Children and Young People category of which I was proud to be one of them.  It was inspiring to hear about Fellows travels across the Globe with projects ranging from child exploitation to mental health interventions to FGM and everything inbetween. My own Fellowship was about Relationship Based Early Intervention Services for Children with Complex Disabilities and I’m delighted to say that since returning to the UK, I’ve been elected as Board Member of Eurlyaid, had an article published in the International Journal of Birth and Parenting Education, presented my findings at EASPD’s conference in Moldova – entitled Growing Together in Early Childhood Intervention, had a paper accepted at BCU Wellbeing conference and been granted funding from BCU to explore Early Care and Education for Young Children Born Prematurely.

Professor Brian Clarke praised all the Fellows for their outstanding achievements, and said that “I know from personal experience that the Fellowship represents a wonderful opportunity. I am continually amazed and inspired by the Churchill Fellows dedication and commitment to making a difference in so many areas affecting today’s society.”

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