Science Daily reported some interesting results of a study this week that could have important consequences for kindergarten students who are struggling to pay attention. The study that appeared in the June issue of the medical journal “Pediatrics,” found that children who can’t keep up in kindergarten are more likely to do poorly on standardized tests in high school.
“The Impact of Childhood Behavior Problems on Academic Achievement in High School,” analyzes data on approximately 700 children from kindergarten until the end of high school.
“In our study, a child’s inability to pay attention when they start school had the strongest negative effect on how they performed at the end of high school — regardless of their IQ (intelligence quotient),” lead study author Joshua Breslau, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine and a researcher with the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, told Science Daily. In a fascinating footnote, much of the research was done by his mother, Dr. Naomi Breslau, who was researching the long-term effects of low birth weight more than 20 years ago. Naomi Breslau conducted a random sample of 1,095 diverse children, with 823 participating in an initial assessment of IQ and classroom behavior as they passed their sixth birthdays; follow-up assessments were conducted at ages 11 and 17, Science Daily reported.
Joshua Breslau noted that addressing attention problems early in life could keep some children from entering “a downward spiral of failure.”
The message for parents and teachers? Don’t ignore signs of inattentiveness in young children, said study co-author Julie Schweitzer, a UC Davis associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) researcher at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, in an interview with Science Daily.
And what story ideas might the study provide for reporters? EarlyStories can imagine sitting in a kindergarten classroom, observing the explosion of energy and enthusiasm as the children play number and letter games and listen to stories. (That’s all still part of most kindergartens, hopefully)
Who is listening attentively and who isn’t? Could a reporter draw conclusions and become concerned about a fidgety boy or sleeping girl? Maybe not, but a well trained teacher could (and should). How concerned are teachers about the children who are fading in and out? Do they know the difference between a child who might be just tired out or overexcited on any given day?
And what, if anything, can they do with this information to make sure the child gets the help they need?
Not all studies break news for journalists, but many are worth reading if only to learn more about they mysterious and fascinating ways little minds work in a country where more than half the high school students don’t graduate in four years. What happens — or doesn’t happen — in the early years is enormously important.