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Newborn Developmental Therapy

At CHOC, we understand the importance of providing children with the very best care right from the start. The Developmental Team in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is made up of occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech language pathologists who have received specialized training in infant and preterm development. Babies in the NICU have very special needs and the developmental team works to create a care plan and environment that helps babies grow and develop. Learn more about the CHOC NICU.

Commitment to Patient- and Family-centered Care

The Developmental Team partners with each infant’s family and medical team to ensure that the child‘s individual needs are met. The team provides parent education on feeding and swallowing skills and developmental skills. Teaching parents how to work with their baby helps them become part of the infant’s overall care and enhances the bonding between the parents and baby. It also encourages the infant to engage in the world around them and to further support the development of the baby’s brain. Parents, therapists and the patient care team are partners and work closely to ensure a smooth transition for the entire family when the baby leaves the NICU to go home.

Developmental Skills Addressed

The Developmental Team works with each baby and his or her family to assess the infant’s oral motor and feeding skills as well as the child’s ability to move and engage with the family and environment. Once the infant’s needs have been determined, the team carefully controls each infant’s environment to create the very best atmosphere for the child’s growth and development. The skills addressed and techniques used with patients are designed to meet each infant’s specific needs and typically include:

  • Environmental Control: Based upon the therapist’s evaluation of each infant’s response to handling and environmental stimulus, and the baby’s family and care providers are taught specific ways to handle and interact with their infant. The goal is to provide the infant with an environment best suited for the baby’s ongoing developmental and physical development while also creating meaningful opportunities for the infant and his or her family to bond.
  • Supportive Positioning: Babies are specially positioned to foster better sleep and future motor development, reduce stress and promote joint protection.
  • Developmental Treatment: Therapists work with infants and their caregivers to improve the baby’s sensory processing skills, muscle tone, strength, and movement patterns in order to help the infant meet developmental milestones.
  • Feeding and Swallowing Intervention: Therapist’s assist in determining the safety of oral feeding and swallowing, strategies for improving upon the infant’s current skills, stimulation and exercise to build the infant’s oral and feeding skills, and identification of the infant’s readiness to breastfeed or take a bottle.

For more information on the Developmental Team, please contact the Rehabilitation Services Department.