Motor Outcomes in Premature Infants

Maureen Connors Lenke, BS, OTR/L


NAINR. 2003;3(3) 

In This Article

NICU Developmental Follow-Up Clinic

The NICU Developmental Follow-Up Clinic provides close monitoring of infants who are considered "high risk," including infants born prematurely or at very low birth weight. The goals of follow-up are to identify disabilities as early as possible so that intervention and parental education can be initiated as early as possible, to monitor services provided, and to assess further needs of the infant. Assessment by a team of developmental specialists with expertise in evaluation of high-risk infants provides valuable information for early identification of developmental delays or disorders. The core follow-up team at Lutheran General Children's Medical Center, Park Ridge, IL, includes a physiatrist (physician specializing in physical medicine/rehabilitation) or neonatologist, a nurse, an audiologist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, and a social worker. Because the differentiation of normal motor development from potential deficits is often difficult, this combination of professional input is very helpful in gaining a more complete picture of the child. For those children with additional special needs, a pediatric neurologist, educational specialist, pulmonologist, nutritionist, and ophthalmologist may also be part of the follow-up visit.

The nurse weighs, measures, takes blood pressure, and reviews the child's medical and developmental history. The audiologist assesses hearing and also performs tympanometry. The speech/language therapist assesses oral motor skills, articulation, language, and communication. The occupational therapist assesses fine motor skills, gross motor skills, muscle tone, and quality of movement patterns. The social worker assists parents in accessing early intervention and community programs and other resources as needed. The physician reviews the medical and developmental history and performs a physical examination. The physician summarizes the follow-up team's impressions and recommendations with the family and will make referrals for additional developmental or medical services if indicated. A written report is sent to the child's primary physician and to the family. Parents are encouraged to share the report with early intervention programs or with the child's school. The clinic visit is an opportunity to provide suggestions to parents to optimize their child's development. It is also an opportunity to provide anticipatory guidance to parents as to what they can expect at subsequent visits.


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