Fort Myers speech therapy

Fort Myers Speech Therapy for Preemies With Speech & Language Delays

Preterm babies, often called “preemies,” are at higher risk of speech and language delays as they develop, compared to babies born full-term. Approximately 1 in 10 babies in the U.S. is born too early, according to the March of Dimes. Our Fort Myers speech therapy team strongly recommends that parents of babies born prior to 37 weeks gestation keep a close eye on every developmental milestone, and seek early intervention therapies to assist where delays are noted.

“We’re so lucky to be living in an age where medical advancements provide even babies born extremely preterm with a good shot at survival,” said FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “Although many preemies go on to develop normally, many do benefit from extra help – particularly in the form of early intervention speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and feeding/swallowing therapy.”

A 2018 study published in the journal Medicine revealed babies born preterm tend to have smaller vocabular at age 3 compared to their full-term peers. They also develop gestures, words, and language understanding at a slower rate than full-term babies. This gap in language skills can expand and continue through childhood, particularly if it’s not treated.

Brain research development shows us time and again that language learning begins at birth, with the window between 6 and 24 months being a golden opportunity to maximize the brain’s neuroplasticity and support development of early communication skills.

Fort Myers speech therapy

Many babies born prematurely benefit from these therapies up to age 5 (sometimes beyond), with early intervention reducing the struggles they will face as they get older. As time goes on, the delays become less noticeable, with many preemies going on to engage in academics, arts, and athletics at the same level as their peers. Many of our preemie patients later succeed to the point you would never know they were born early unless they told you.

Adjusted Developmental Milestones for Premature Babies

Our Fort Myers speech therapy professionals are closely familiar with the adjusted calendar that must be used when it comes to assessing preemies development. That is, there is a “corrected age” that correlates to their due date, rather than their birth date, that must be taken into consideration. For preemies, it’s the due date rather than the birth date that we use to ascertain the age at which certain developmental milestones should be reached.

For example, a child may be 10-months-old, but if they were born eight weeks early, we’d adjust expectations to their developmental age, which would be 8-months-old.

It’s worth noting that not all premature babies are going to need early intervention therapies. Still, their parents should be highly attuned to their developmental progress – and not be afraid to seek additional help and services if needed, particularly if developmental concerns extend beyond 12 months.

Fort Myers Speech Therapy Requires Physician Referral

Fort Myers speech therapists for kids

Most likely, if your baby is born prematurely, your Southwest Florida pediatrician will refer you to a developmental specialist. It’s important that the trajectory of care for preemies continue through childhood, including periodic appointments with specialists who recognize early signs of developmental, behavioral, motor, and language challenges.

You can be referred for Fort Myers speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and feeding therapy by either a pediatrician or pediatric specialist, and insurance typically covers the cost for these medically-necessary services – particularly in the first several years of life.

If you have any questions about therapy services, schedules, or insurance coverage, our dedicated team of professionals at our two FOCUS Therapy clinics in Fort Myers are happy to help.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

After the NICU: Studying Connections Between Prematurity and Development, Nov. 18, 2014, By Mark Shwartz, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford

More Blog Entries:

Speech Therapy – by The Numbers, April 2, 2022, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog

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