The contribution of low birthweight and other medical complications to educational handicaps

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Keith G. Scott - Committee Chair


An extensive database has been developed describing risk factors and outcome of children born weighing less than 2500 grams, i.e. who were of low birthweight (LBW). Little is known, however, of the proportion of children currently in special education who were born of LBW. This study was designed to develop and test a simple epidemiological model to estimate the prevalence of special education children who were born of LBW. The model utilized statistics from a county school system, from a county hospital and data from prospective studies of high risk, LBW children for prevalence estimation. An historical retrospective (case-control) study was conducted to test the values derived in the model.The subjects in this study were a cross-sectional representation of exceptional classroom (N = 440) and age matched regular classroom (N = 646) students in a large school system database. Standardized achievement scores, ethnicity, SES and grade retention data was recorded. The children were tracked back to their medical and birth records at a large county hospital. Relevant data regarding medical histories were recorded (e.g. BW, GA, labor complications).The derived model successfully predicted the prevalence of educationally handicapped LBW children. The proportion of LBW children ranged from approximately 15 to 18 percent. The results support the following conclusions: (a) A reduction in the rate of LBW births would produce a significant drop in educational morbidity; (b) the majority of educational morbidity is not due to LBW; and (c) the increased level of risk of LBW indicates that close clinical monitoring continues to be warranted.


Psychology, Clinical

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