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Specific Child Health Care Needs Tied to Poor School Outcomes

Last Updated: July 25, 2011.

Specific subgroups of children with special health care needs due to functional limitations or behavioral health problems are at higher risk of poor outcomes at school, including lower academic achievement, according to a study published online July 25 in Pediatrics.

MONDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Specific subgroups of children with special health care needs due to functional limitations or behavioral health problems are at higher risk of poor outcomes at school, including lower academic achievement, according to a study published online July 25 in Pediatrics.

Christopher B. Forrest, M.D., Ph.D., from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the association between having a special health care need and school outcomes in 1,457 children in the fourth through sixth grades from 34 schools. Data on attendance, student engagement, behavioral threats to achievement, and academic achievement were collected from parents using the Children With Special Health Care Needs Screener and from school records.

The investigators found that 33 percent of children screened positive for special health care needs. These children had lower motivation to do well in school, more disruptive behavior, and more frequent experiences as a bully victim, after adjusting for sociodemographic and school effects. They had significantly lower academic achievement, as gauged by grades, standardized testing, and parental-assessed academic performance. These results were seen in children who qualified as having a special health care need because they had functional limitations that were attributable to chronic illness or behavioral problems, and not because of intake of prescription medications.

"Specific subgroups of children with special health care needs are at increased risk for poor school outcomes. Health and school professionals will need to collaborate to identify these children early, intervene with appropriate medical and educational services, and monitor long-term outcomes," the authors write.

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