Preterm babies with very low birth weights display a range of developmental disabilities during the first couple of years of life.
Even at age eight, one-fifth will have major cognitive problems, half require individual assistance in the classroom, and 20 per cent are in special education.
But it's a legacy that diminishes with time. By the time preterm children reach the age of 14 or 15 years, nearly three-quarters of them graduate from high school in America, and more than 40 per cent are enrolled in college programmes.
It's a shift that is endorsed by a new study of preterm, and low birth weight, children which proves that they show a continuing improvement in verbal and IQ test scores over time. Only those that also suffered significant central nervous system injury at birth failed to show progress.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 289: 705-11).