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Premature Babies and Physical Therapy

JanelleIn Pennsylvania, more than 17,000 babies are born too soon each year, before their lungs, brains or other organs are fully developed (March of Dimes, 2010). But, there is hope. Since premature babies are more "at-risk" for developmental delays and many require a stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), they are automatically tracked to receive Early Intervention (EI) services. These EI services may include occupational, physical, and speech therapy, as well as developmental, vision, hearing and nutrition services. EI services are provided for children ages birth to three in the home or community setting and are at no cost to the family in Pennsylvania.

A common need for babies born prematurely is physical therapy. Since most babies are born curled up and preemies are born extended, physical therapy may be required to "bring them back to their middle." Because many premature babies are hooked up to life-saving support such as oxygen for the first few weeks after birth, they remain extended and can be sensitive to touch. The key is to bring their hands to their middle (chest) and teach them that touch is good.

Three-year old Janelle is a wonderful example of how physical therapy can help a child excel. Born early with a few complications at birth, Janelle began receiving physical therapy through The Early Learning Institute (TELI) at nine months old. When she began therapy, she kept her head way to the side, did not look at anybody, startled at everything and to her, touch was unpleasant. Right away, TELI physical therapist Kay Donovan began "putting Janelle back together," by making things less scary for her and continually bringing Janelle to her center.

"That is when we found Janelle," said Kay. "Soon, she had head control and her own little personality." And, through continued therapies, Janelle can now roll, pivot, scoot, sit independently and stand with support. Kay believes her job is to ensure that babies and their parents have a better time together. Janelle's mother, Jennifer, agrees. "They've given us resources and the confidence to be able to take care of our child."

For more information about The Early Learning Institute (TELI), call (412) 922-8322 or visit www.telipa.org

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