Intervention programme children had higher IQ and fewer behavioural problems

Intervention programme children had higher IQ and fewer behavioural problems

A childhood intervention programme that saw children’s IQ soar may be rolled out nationally, writes Joyce Fegan.

Preparing for Life (PFL), ran from 2008 to 2015 in Dublin 15 and 17 and had a dramatic impact on children’s health and behaviour.

The 200 participating families were split into either an intervention or a control group, and the mothers were followed from midway through pregnancy until their children were entering primary school.

The IQ of the children who received intervention was 10 points higher than those in the control group.

The children whose parents received the intervention were less likely to be overweight (23% compared to 41% in the control group) and had fewer behavioural problems (2% compared to 17% in the control group).

New developments mean the programme has already been rolled out in three other locations and pending funding, the plan is to roll it out nationally.

“The programme has now been rolled out in Bray, Finglas, and Newbridge and they are coming back with very good feedback,” said Greg O’Reilly, PFL’s programme manager.

“We are building up a PFL training programme and in order to have a PFL scheme in every disadvantaged community in Ireland, we need to have people trained up.

“Into next year we would hope to see this rolled out nationally,” he added.

Another development will see PFL turn into Ireland’s first ever longitudinal study on childhood development.

“We have just secured legacy funding from various different sources, such as the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and from philanthropic organisations.

“We will now be able to go back to children from phase 1 at different junctures, so when they’re seven, 14 and track their progress right up until they’re in their 20s,” Mr O’Reilly said. “This definitely hasn’t been done in Ireland before,” he added.

Mr O’Reilly explained how exactly the programme worked: “The programme kicks in pre-birth with home visitors and mentors providing support to parents pre-birth.

“After birth then, at particular junctures, we give the parents tip sheets. Mentors talk the parent through what is on the sheet and they implement it.

“Each sheet refers to a specific juncture, so they only have one at a time as opposed to a big book of information,” he said.

Parents received up to 50 home visits each.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner newspaper.


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