The Vulnerability for Learning Disorders in a Preschool Sample from Lisbon

By Cristina Vieira and Ana Matias.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The goal of our project was to build a Preschool Screening Programme applicable to any Portuguese school with the need to assess their preschoolers before starting 1st grade, aiming the identification and support of children at risk to develop a Learning Disorder. For the First Edition, we described a sample of the preschool population from Lisbon, regarding the developmental characteristics necessary for posterior learning of academic skills. We’ve assessed 119 children and interviewed 5 teachers. Considering literature revised we used the instruments “Provas de Diagnóstico Pré-Escolar” (Portuguese validated screening test) and elaborated a Questionnaire for children’s teachers. Data analysis covered four age groups (3-6 years), to determine which domains were well developed at the preschool and which could represent vulnerability for posterior academic skills. Screening revealed that the most developed domains for all age groups were verbal comprehension, pre-math concepts and shape constancy perception. The less developed domains were spatial orientation, ground-shape perception and hand-eye coordination. The questionnaire showed that teachers signalized 16.8% of the participants, for behaviour (35%), language/communication (15%) and hyperactivity/attention (5% each) problems. It also showed that 7% of the participants were attending Psychological Counselling/Psychotherapy (50%), Speech Therapy (37.5%) or both (12.5%). Though screening results showed 11.2% of outliers participants, therefore needing detailed assessment, and 65% of those were both signalized by teachers and inquiry, 9.2% of the participants were signalized only by teachers. This project identifies a set of strong and vulnerable domains of the preschoolers’ development, useful to predict the abilities and needs expected by the 1st grade, therefore fundamental for readjusting the preschool teachers’ work, but also for planning the 1st grade teachers’ work. It also promotes channels of communication between families, schools, teachers and specialized professionals, identifies school and family real concerns, but also signalizes children that might need a detailed assessment and possibly specialized intervention, to prevent future learning disorders. These results were presented at the schools and individually reported to the families that have requested it. In a Second Phase of this project we’re reassessing all participants now finishing 1st grade, for comparing predictions to actual academic results. We’re also working on a Second Edition that broadens the screening assessment, adding a behaviour checklist and a language screening for children signalized by teachers.

Keywords: Preschoolers Assessment, Preschoolers Development, Learning Disorders, Prevention, Early Intervention

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 9, pp.163-178. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 612.446KB).

Cristina Vieira

Assessment Coordinator, Fundação Renascer, Lisboa, Portugal

Born in Lisbon (30th-March-1978). Licensed in Special Education and Rehabilitation at Human Motricity Faculty (Technical University of Lisbon in 2001). Master in Early Intervention by Santiago de Compostela’s University (Faculty of Psychology, Spain). Doing doctoral thesis in Child Development Assessment.

Md Ana Matias

Training Coordinator, Training Department, Fundação Renascer, Lisboa, Portugal

Born in Lisbon (28th-April-1977). Finishing a Master Degree in Educational Psychology and qualified in Special Education and Rehabilitation at Human Motricity Faculty (Technical University of Lisbon in 2001).


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