[Detection of executive function disorders with a standard neurodevelopmental follow-up of premature children].


INTRODUCTION: A significant proportion of prematurely born children encounter behavioral difficulties, such as attention deficit or hyperactivity, which could be due to executive function disorders. AIMS: To examine whether the standard neurodevelopmental assessment offered to premature children in Switzerland recognizes executive function disorders. METHODS: The study population consisted of 49 children born before 29 weeks of gestation who were examined between 5 and 6 years of age with a standard assessment, with additional items to assess executive functioning. Children with severe neurodevelopmental impairment were excluded (mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism). Standard assessment consisted in the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC), which comprises three subscales: sequential processes (analysis of sequential information), simultaneous processes (global analysis of visual information), and composite mental processes (CMP) (result of the other two scales), as well as a behavioral evaluation using the standardized Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Executive functioning was assessed with tasks evaluating visual attention, divided attention, and digit memory as well as with a specialized questionnaire, the Behavior Rating Index of Executive Functions (BRIEF), which evaluates several aspects of executive function (regulation, attention, flexibility, working memory, etc). RESULTS: Children were divided according to their results on the three K-ABC scales (< or >85), and the different neuropsychological tasks assessing executive function were compared between the groups. The CMP did not differentiate children with executive difficulties, whereas a score < 85 on the sequential processes was significantly associated with worse visual and divided attention. There was a strong correlation between the SDQ and the BRIEF questionnaires. For both questionnaires, children receiving psychotherapy had significantly higher results. Children who presented behavioral problems assessed with the SDQ presented significantly higher scores on the BRIEF. CONCLUSION: A detailed analysis of the standard neurodevelopmental assessment allows the identification of executive function disorders in premature children. Children who performed below 85 on the sequential processes of the K-ABC had significantly more attentional difficulties on the neuropsychological tasks and therefore have to be recognized and carefully followed. Emotional regulation had a strong correlation with behavioral difficulties, which were suitably assessed with the SDQ, recognized by the families, and treated.