AIM--To determine whether poor motor skills, previously identified in a cohort of very low birthweight (< 1250 g) children, born in 1980-1, have persisted or improved. Previous assessments had shown significant improvement between the ages of 6 and 8 years. METHODS--The original cohort were traced and were assessed using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children, an update of the Test Of Motor Impairment, used at 6 and 8 years. Where possible the classroom-matched controls from the original studies were assessed, otherwise new controls were selected. Teachers were also asked to identify those children whom they considered clumsy. Forty seven of the original cohort of 53 children, all but one still attending mainstream school, and 40 original and 20 new classroom-matched controls were studied. RESULTS--Fifty one per cent of the cohort showed clinically important or borderline impairment. More of these children had significant impairment (16/47, 34%) than the controls (3/60, 5%). The improvement seen by 8 years of age was maintained but there was no further improvement. Girls had significantly higher overall impairment scores (median 16; interquartile range 10-21.5) than the boys (5.5 (1.5-12.5)), and on a wider variety of subtests (5/8) than the boys (3/8). CONCLUSIONS--Many very low birthweight children have impaired motor skills. Despite early improvement it persists into adolescence and the deficit remains. Interventional studies may help to see if these problems can be alleviated.
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