Fifty three children aged 6 years old who had weighed less than 1251 g at birth without cerebral palsy and receiving mainstream education, were entered into a controlled study of motor skills. The index and control children were matched by age, sex, and school. The index group were considered by their teachers to have similar academic performances to their index group were considered by their teachers to have similar academic performances to their controls, although two index cases were receiving remedial teaching. On the test of motor impairment extremely low birthweight children had significantly more motor difficulties than controls. In addition, the index group had more minor neurological signs, lower intelligence quotients, and more adverse behavioural traits. The higher motor impairment scores among index children were independent of differences in intelligence quotient between the two groups. There was no association between impairment score and the presence or degree of periventricular haemorrhage or periventricular leucomalacia on neonatal cerebral ultrasound. Children with Apgar scores at five minutes of less than 7 had significantly higher impairment scores compared with those whose scores were 7 or more. Three perinatal factors (Apgar score at five minutes, neonatal septicaemia, and abnormal movements) explained 32% of the variance in impairment score at the age of 6 years. In children who do not have cerebral palsy perinatal factors may still be important in the development of motor skills. The presence of subtle neuromotor impairments at 6 years of age has implications for schooling that need further evaluation.
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