Early birth ‘does not raise dyscalculia risk’

Early birth ‘does not raise dyscalculia risk’

Children born early are not at greater risk of suffering from dyscalculia than those who go full term, it has been reported.

Scientists from Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany have contradicted previous  conclusions by experts that early birth is a risk factor for the condition and is the first research of its kind to take the IQ of children into consideration.

Developmental psychologist Dr Julia Jakel looked at children born between 23 and 41 weeks into pregnancy using data from the Bavarian Longitudinal Study, which started in the late 1980s, Science Daily reports.

With rising levels of high risk pre-term babies, born before 32 weeks gestational age or of very low birth weight, children are often found to have long-term cognitive problems.

Dr Jakel found pre-term children struggled more with higher working memory tasks, with poorer abilities generally linked to the earlier the gestational age the child was born at.

However, working with Dieter Wolke from the University of Warwick, she did not identify specific maths deficiencies in pre-term children who had no evidence of general cognitive impairments.

“There is no specific maths deficit in pre-term children if their general IQ is factored in,” Dr Jakel concluded.

The condition can lead to poor levels of participation in class, a lack of interest in maths and low grades, with Dr Jakel noting that assistance and resources at primary school age in particular can make a substantial difference in terms of development.

Iansyst, founder of Dyslexia.com, provides a range of products that may assist children who have been diagnosed with dyscalculia, such as motivating computer program Numbershark, which offers a range of 45 carefully designed games targeted at improving the understanding and use of numbers.

Dyscalculia is defined by the Department for Education as “a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills”. This may include difficulty understanding number concepts, with operations such as telling the time or handling money, with spatial orientation and with learning facts around numbers. Between three and six per cent of the population thought to be affected by the condition.