Kids face developmental difficulties

JIJI

Some 6.5 percent of Japanese elementary and junior high school students may have developmental disorders, an education ministry survey said Wednesday.

The survey, conducted in February and March, was based on the evaluations of teachers rather than doctors of some 53,800 randomly chosen students in 44 prefectures outside the 2011 disaster zone.

According to the survey, 6.5 percent of the children in the survey have difficulty reading, writing and staying calm, although they are not mentally retarded. Extrapolating, the figure means that about 613,600 of the roughly 9,432,200 children attending school in the areas covered may have developmental difficulties, the survey said.

Experts say the steps needed to improve the situation include reducing class sizes and placing more teachers in each class.

By grade, the highest number was 9.8 percent among first-graders, 7.5 percent among third-graders, and 6.3 percent among sixth-year elementary school students. The older the children, the lower the rate went. Based on sex, the figure was 9.3 percent for boys and 3.6 percent for girls.

Special assistance was emphasized for 18.4 percent of those deemed at risk by each school’s in-house committees on special needs education, but 6 percent never received such help.

“We hope to improve the environment, including teacher training,” a ministry official involved in special needs education said.

A similar survey by the ministry in 2002 conducted on some 40,000 people found 6.3 percent potentially had developmental disorders. The results of the two surveys cannot be directly compared, however, because the methods used and the regions covered differ, according to the ministry.