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Children with special educational needs (SEN) often struggle academically. Previous studies found that children’s abilities in kindergarten are predictive of their future SEN status. It is currently unknown whether these predictors differ in children with and without an early identification of a special need in kindergarten (SN-K).
Objectives and Approach
We investigated early predictors of SEN in Grade 3, in a cohort of Ontario children, with and without SN-K (1,824 and 62,842, respectively), who attended kindergarten between 2003/04 and 2005/06. Early Development Instrument data, a teacher-completed checklist of children’s development, were linked to Grade 3 standardized reading, writing, and mathematics test scores. Controlling for children’s demographics, multivariate binary logistic regressions were conducted examining the association between children’s developmental outcomes, their functional impairments, the necessity for further assessment (all reported by their kindergarten teacher) and their SEN status in Grade 3.
Overall, 69.8% of children with SN-K had SEN in Grade 3, while 11.6% of children without SN-K had SEN. Our analyses revealed that, for children with SN-K, having a functional impairment was the most significant predictor of having SEN in Grade 3 (Odds Ratio=3.61, 2.59-5.02 95% confidence interval). For children without SN-K, teachers reporting the need for further assessment was the strongest predictor of having SEN in Grade 3 in children without SN-K (Odds Ratio=2.70, 2.49-2.93).
Conclusion / Implications
Early predictors of SEN in Grade 3 differ for children who receive an early identification (SN-K) compared to those who don’t. How children with SN-K function in a classroom is the best predictor of SEN in Grade 3, while teachers’ observation that a child needs further assessment is the strongest predictor of SEN in Grade 3 for those without SN-K. Addressing these areas early on may help reduce the number of children with SEN in later grades and may positively impact their future academic success.
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