Early Intervention for Premature Babies

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Early intervention is a group of federally funded programs carried out by the states. Basically, early intervention helps families and young children who have a developmental concern (or who are at risk of problems) to make sure that these children grow to their greatest potential. Early intervention services are offered from birth to age three. Children who need services past age three are transitioned into a preschool setting that best meets their needs.

Why Do Premature Babies Need Early Intervention?

Not all children who were born early will need early intervention, but premature babies are at risk for many conditions that make them eligible for early intervention. Conditions such as IVH and other health problems of prematurity may leave premature babies with developmental delays, cognitive or emotional disorders, speech or feeding problems, social concerns, or other issues.

Services

Because states design different early intervention programs, services offered may vary.

Early intervention is provided in many different settings, and always in the best place for the child.

Early intervention might be provided in the child’s home, in a daycare setting, or in a local clinic. Often, early intervention therapists include parents in the therapeutic experience and teach parents how to provide some therapies themselves. Some common early intervention services include:

  • Educational services
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Family counseling

As your child grows older, Early Intervention may also be offered in a preschool setting. In some cases, services can help your child to better socialize with other children or take part in typical preschool activities.

How to Sign up Your Baby for Early Intervention Services

Early intervention should start as early as possible. Many milestones are best met at a certain age, so waiting could mean that children who miss these developmental windows will have trouble learning certain skills.

If your child seems to be showing signs of a developmental delay or having trouble in other areas, talk with your pediatrician. He or she may be able to direct you to the best place to go to get services.

If your pediatrician can’t help, contact the early intervention coordinators in your state.

Deciding What Services to Use

The first step in early intervention is a complete assessment of the child. Parents are closely involved, and their opinions are very important. After the assessment, the family and caseworkers will write an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for the child. This plan lists all of the information about the child’s early intervention program, including areas of need, goals of service, specific services to be provided, the timeline for the program, and how the child should transition out of the program or to the next type of care.

Does Early Intervention Work?

Early intervention has been very helpful to premature babies. A study published in 2013 found that early interventions could help reduce anxiety and depression in mothers of preterm infants. The study also found that early intervention improved parents' efficacy.

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  1. Benzies KM, Magill-Evans JE, Hayden KA, Ballantyne M. Key components of early intervention programs for preterm infants and their parents: a systematic review and meta-analysisBMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2013;13 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S10. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-S1-S10


  2. Benzies KM, Magill-Evans JE, Hayden KA, Ballantyne M. Key components of early intervention programs for preterm infants and their parents: a systematic review and meta-analysisBMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2013;13 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S10. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-S1-S10