December 2021 – After the NICU

Jenny R. McCormick, Senior Editor

Children born prematurely are more at risk for having a learning disability. Parents and other caregivers including medical professionals should keep an eye out for possible problems, especially in children who were born extremely premature. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Corrected age: A child’s corrected age should always be considered early in life when assessing development. Remember, it’s important to differentiate between developmental lags due to maturation and true disabilities.
  • Early intervention: Early intervention gives a child the best chance at minimizing the effect of a learning disability. The earlier your preemie is evaluated, the sooner intervention can begin. Early intervention gives a child the best chance at minimizing the effect of a learning disability.  Signs to look for:
    • Late to talk
    • Difficulty understanding what they hear
    • Problems with visual and motor processing
    • Memory and attention problems
  • Emotions and behavior: Children and teenagers who were born prematurely are more likely to have emotional and attention difficulties. For example, they may seem withdrawn, passive or very shy. Some children born prematurely may show hyperactive or impulsive behavior. Children born before 28 weeks have a higher risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autistic spectrum disorder (autism).
  • Taking care of your own emotional health:  Like any new parent, it’s important to try and look after yourself as well as your baby. If you have any concerns about your baby’s health, this can affect your mental wellbeing. It may help to talk to other parents with similar experiences. It’s important to ask for help. Don’t hide your feelings or suffer in silence. You are not alone and help is available. Here are a couple of resources:

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