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Use of the Woodcock-Johnson III with preschool age children born prematurely Kozey, Michelle Lynne

Abstract

Preterm and low birth-weight children are one of the most common at-risk groups for whom early assessment and long term monitoring is strongly indicated, as they display a significantly higher incidence of developmental impairments such as difficulties in childhood cognitive, motor, academic, behavioural and social functioning, and they require higher levels of special education services (Bhutta, Cleeves, Casey, Craddock & Anand, 2002). Although demand has increased for the early identification of the psycho-educational difficulties of preterm and other clinical populations, the assessment of preschool-aged children has continued to be challenged by issues related to the standardized assessment of young children, and the technical properties and content validity of instruments available for use with this age range. The most recent revision of the Woodcock-Johnson III contains tests that are developmentally and psychometrically appropriate for use with preschool age children, but no published studies are currently available on its use with clinical populations of a preschool age (Ford, Kozey & Merkel, 2006 under review). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the utility of the WJ III with a common clinical population of a preschool age, specifically children aged four and five years born who were born prematurely. Results indicated no significant differences between the score distributions of preschool-aged children born prematurely versus a matched sample from the WJ III Standardization sample in terms of global intelligence, individual Cattell-Horn-Carroll abilities, global achievement or individual academic abilities. Design issues related to the screening of the matched sample limited possible conclusions regarding the relationship between birth status and performance on the WJ III tests administered in this study, and no relationship was found between perinatal complications as measured by the Maternal Perinatal Scale and performance on the WJ III. However, current findings may be a function of the limited size and biased composition of the study sample, rather than the actual function of the WJ III. The application of CHC theory and a cross-battery approach remains as a promising method to understanding the cognitive and academic deficits of preterm children in general, and further investigation is necessary to determine the utility of the WJ III with preschool-aged children born prematurely.

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