The case for early intervention
When a preemie is released from the NICU, the journey is only beginning
When Carter was released from the NICU, we were very lucky that when we brought him home, he was breathing and eating on his own. We did have to continue to have him seen by his neonatologist and pediatrician (for well-child checkups and immunizations). But we also applied for “early intervention” almost directly out of the NICU.
Early intervention in New Hampshire is free to children younger than 3. They were able to offer us physical therapy, occupational therapy, and later, speech therapy. The PT and OT is super important as a preemies’ development is often delayed due to their early delivery.
Up until age 2 medical professions follow their “actual age” based on date of birth and their “corrected age” based on what their due date was. Carter is fortunate to have a cousin born 10 days after him. However, as a first-time mother, it was difficult to not constantly compare him to his cousin. She was born full-term, was a second child and hit her milestones on time, if not ahead of time.
When friends had children, they would ask me questions and it was hard for me to answer because Carter was often behind in his development. He never crawled — only scooted around on his bottom — and he didn’t walk until he was 18 months. He barely spoke until he was about 2 1/2 years old, due to his autism and prematurity.
While friends were going to work, I was shuffling around to therapies, intervention appointments and specialist follow-ups.
Through his therapists and doctors, we knew we needed to seek a developmental evaluation at age 2. We knew his delays were not just due to prematurity but that something more was going on.
Early diagnosis was key to enrolling in autism therapies and early intervention was a key to his successes; therapies have helped us push along development his entire life.
They helped “train” me on things to look for, techniques to help him move forward, and support to get through the early years.
The professionals that work with this special population are amazing, selfless individuals. While they are there for the child, they are also critical to a family’s support. Prematurity is a lifelong journey for the kids born really early. We have been incredibly blessed to receive the support that we have and it has made it possible for me to help others going through the journey now.
Lauren Martone is a blogger for ParentingNH from southern New Hampshire. You can contact her at email@example.com. Lauren and her family’s story were featured in the July 2015 issue of ParentingNH, and also in the July 2018 issue.