Having a premature baby can be an intimidating experience for parents. There are many changes that come with the addition of a child into your family, and when that child is premature, those changes can seem even more overwhelming.
Many premature babies not only face the physical challenges which often accompany pre-term birth, but complications associated with cognitive development as well, sometimes so severe that they require special education.
It is important for parents and caregivers to understand that some of the most devastating factors a child who was born prematurely can face are often developmental delays and learning disabilities.
There are many variants which can influence a premature baby's cognitive development and the severity of any physical disabilities. While many developmental and physical delays will be diagnosed from birth, most cognitive disabilities will not become evident until about the time the child is turning 3.
Some medical factors which commonly cause premature infants to experience developmental complications include:
- Lack of oxygen during birth
- Underdeveloped lungs resulting in prolonged us of supplemental oxygen
- Intrauterine growth retardation which often results in restricted brain growth while in the womb
- Severity of prematurity
Your child's physician will begin to evaluate your child from the time of his or her birth, and will most likely continuously screen your child for any indication of developmental, physical or cognitive delays until the child is turning 3. At three years old, most complications will have become noticed.
There are various resources available to parents facing special education for their premature babies.The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that each disabled child is provided with the opportunity to experience free appropriate public education until that child reaches the age of twenty-one. In addition, there are numerous federally funded programs which offer screening tools and educational resources for children with disabilities.
Once diagnosed with a disability, your child will be assessed periodically to determine a proper Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP is an educational plan which is developed by evaluating your child's abilities and any complications or challenges that must be realized. After a thorough evaluation is completed, various assistance tools are presented and employed to ensure that your child experiences the least restrictive learning environment possible.
Birth to Age Three is a federally funded program that provides children with disabilities the opportunity to receive treatment and education that is designed to help improve the child's development from the time the child comes home from the hospital until the child is turning 3.
Some of the services provided by Birth to Age Three include speech, hearing, and vision services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and educational tools and services. These services are available free of charge in many states, but the cost can vary significantly between states.
Early intervention is key to the success of your premature baby. Parents should always educate themselves about available resources and techniques that can encourage the development of their children. The hospital staff is usually very experienced in dealing with these types of issues, and can be a wonderful source of information.
In addition, a number of state specific resources can be realized by investigating your state and local web pages, or your local social security office.
A great resource was my towns local Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) it was a great resource in getting to know the school district and a great source of support as well.