Friday, June 25, 2010

Update – Graduation from Developmental Follow-up

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my family’s experience at developmental follow-up appointments for our daughter who was born 15 weeks early. For those of you who are new to this site, our daughter, Olivia, was born at 25 weeks gestation and weighed only 1 lb 15 oz. Even though she came so early and was so tiny, she is a remarkably healthy and happy child. If you would like to know more about our experience, you can read all about it in a 3 part series posted last year titled “When Motherhood Doesn’t Go According to Plan.” Part 1 covers what it was like to deliver our baby early, part 2 describes our life while Olivia was in the hospital, and part 3 provides tips for coping with a premature baby’s hospitalization.

Just as a reminder, when babies are born prematurely, they are at risk for delays in their physical, cognitive and emotional development. In an effort to detect and address any delays as early as possible, infants who were born prematurely often require special appointments with a team of developmental specialists. During these appointments, the specialists use a variety of tests and measurements to evaluate how the baby is maturing.

Olivia, now 27 months old, has visited the developmental clinic 3 times, at 10, 18 and 26 months. Like I explained in the original post, our family really looked forward to these appointments. We enjoyed watching Olivia complete the evaluations and were anxious to learn about ways we could help her development progress. At the first appointment, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that she was already ‘catching up’ and we used every tool the developmental team gave us to help her along. At the second appointment, we were even more surprised when they told us how far she’d come.

The 3rd appointment progressed much like the first 2. The appointment started with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development testing, which is used to evaluate cognitive, language, and motor development. For Olivia this test was more like a game where she got to put puzzles together, stack blocks, and look at picture books. Next a nurse practitioner measured Olivia’s growth and reflexes. The growth measurements are a little more extensive than those performed during normal pediatrician visits, but still only took about 10 minutes to complete. Finally, we met with a social worker to discuss any concerns we had and to get information about additional resources available to our family.

During our visit with the social worker, we were surprised once again! Originally, we were told to expect to attend at least 2 appointments per year for 3 years, but that the schedule could change based on our daughter’s needs. Because Olivia had tested so well, she was graduating from the program and wouldn’t have to attend any more follow-up appointments! She even received a graduation certificate with 3 pictures of her, 1 from each appointment.

Even though she has graduated from the program, Olivia is still at risk for some learning difficulties, so we will continue to watch her closely. The social worker gave us some information about services in our area in case any concerns arise. For example, once she turns 3 years old, Olivia will be eligible for any services offered by our local school district.

Overall, our experience with the developmental follow-up clinic was very positive. Even though we were nervous before our first appointment, we learned a lot at each appointment that we used to help our daughter reach her full potential. If you have a story to share about your experience with developmental follow-up of a premature infant, we’d love to hear from you.

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