For premature babies or high-risk infants who spend most of their initial days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), early intervention therapies can greatly benefit them in healing and development. According to researchers, young brains are highly receptive to the therapies allowing them to improve their cognitive and physical development, particularly when initiated in early years.
Read on to learn about early intervention and how it can help high-risk infants!
Who are High-risk Infants?
First things first! Let’s understand who high-risk infants are!
Preemies who are born prematurely or those who are sick when they are born are termed “high-risk infants.” These infants tend to experience developmental delays and are diagnosed with delayed developmental milestones (such as trouble walking, sitting, climbing, or combining words) at the expected age.
Many children are born at high risk of the developmental delay every year, and around 10% of them show developmental delay. Infant development is a dynamic process that initiates at birth and keeps evolving as the babies interact with the environment and caregivers.
What are the Risk Factors?
There are several different influences (risk factors) that impact children’s development. These factors are often categorized into biological and environmental risks.
- Biological Risk Factors
These risks are linked to severe developmental delays and disabilities, handicaps, and mental retardation. Prenatal influences include intrauterine growth retardation, congenital infections, chromosomal disorders, and congenital malformations (brain and other body organs).
- Environmental Risk Factors
Environmental risk factors may vary significantly. Environment encompasses not only family resources and parent-child interactions but also organization and physical properties. Parenting ability is one factor that can influence infant development. For instance, limited parenting ability due to mental retardation, inexperience, youth, drug abuse, or any illness can be a risk factor for a child’s developmental disability.
Role of Early Intervention for High-Risk Infants
Early intervention refers to the multidisciplinary services provided to children with developmental delays from birth to 5 years of age. The main purpose of an early intervention program is to promote the health and well-being of children and improve their competencies while minimizing their developmental disabilities, preventing functional deterioration, and encouraging adaptive parenting.
For high-risk infants, an early intervention program starts within the 1st year of their lives. Be it any early development (motor, cognitive, language, growth, and communication) – all are influenced by emotional and social development through parenting and caregiving relationships.
During this period, early interventions can have a positive impact on the infant’s neurodevelopmental outcomes. Here, it is to note that early interventions embrace numerous therapeutic approaches, including Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy, Psychomotor Therapy, and many others.