Predicting problems in school performance from preschool health, developmental and behavioural assessments.
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To determine the accuracy of various predictors of school problems, we conducted a 3-year prospective study of 1999 children who began school in the Niagara region of Ontario in 1980. During the year before school entry the parents gave a health, developmental and behavioural history during an interview with a community health nurse, and the children underwent vision and hearing screening tests and the Denver Developmental Screening Test (DDST). At the end of the 1980-81 school year the kindergarten teachers rated the children's learning problems. At the end of the 1982-83 school year the presence of school problems was ascertained, and the predictive accuracy of items from the preschool history and examination and of the kindergarten teachers' ratings was calculated. The health, developmental and behavioural history with or without the DDST was found to predict later school problems with acceptable accuracy. The kindergarten teachers' ratings gave slightly more accurate predictions. We conclude that in communities where prompt diagnostic evaluation and effective therapeutic or preventive help can be provided to children identified as being at high risk, health professionals may play a useful role in screening for future school problems.
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