OBJECTIVE: To examine the associations between having a special health care need and school outcomes measured as attendance, student engagement, behavioral threats to achievement, and academic achievement.
PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS: A total of 1457 children in the fourth through sixth grades from 34 schools in 3 school districts and their parents provided survey data; parents completed the Children With Special Health Care Needs Screener. School records were abstracted for attendance, grades, and standardized achievement test scores.
RESULTS: Across 34 schools, 33% of children screened positive for special health care needs. After adjusting for sociodemographic and school effects, children with special health care needs had lower motivation to do well in school, more disruptive behaviors, and more frequent experiences as a bully victim. They experienced significantly lower academic achievement, as measured by grades, standardized testing, and parental-assessed academic performance. These findings were observed for children who qualified as having a special health care need because they had functional limitations attributed to a chronic illness or a behavioral health problem but not for those who qualified only because they took prescription medications.
CONCLUSIONS: Specific subgroups of children with special health care needs are at increased risk for poor school outcomes. Health and school professionals will need to collaborate to identify these children early, intervene with appropriate medical and educational services, and monitor long-term outcomes.
- children with special health care needs
- student engagement
- academic achievement
- school performance
- middle childhood
- school outcomes
- Accepted April 14, 2011.
- Copyright © 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics