FOCUS Fort Myers speech therapy preemie low birth weight

Why Our Fort Myers Speech Therapy Intake Forms Inquire About Low Birth Weight

Some parents note when filling out our Fort Myers speech therapy intake forms that we inquire as to whether their child had a low birth weight. You may wonder what this has to do with speech therapy. The answer, as noted in research published by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, is that compared to babies with a birth weight in the normal range, those with low birth rate:

  • Were more likely to have a communication disorder.
  • Were more likely to have used speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy services.
  • Had weaker motor abilities.
  • Had lower school performance.
  • Had higher incidence rates of pneumonia.
  • Were three times more likely to repeat a grade.

In short, while some babies with low birth weight are perfectly fine, some are at high risk for communication and developmental problems that can extend well into childhood. Our Fort Myers speech therapy team at FOCUS Therapy can help.

What Is Low Birth Weight, Exactly? 

As noted by the March of Dimes, a baby is considered to have a low birth weight when they weigh less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces – regardless of whether they were full-term or not. Approximately 1 in 12 babies in the U.S. (roughly 8 percent) are born with low birth weight.

Some babies who are born small are perfectly healthy, but others may have difficulty eating, gaining weight, and fighting off infections. As speech therapists, these things are important for us to know, as they may factor into speech-language disorders as they child gets older. (We also offer feeding therapy to children with a range of feeding/swallowing issues.)

The two primary reasons for low birth weight are preterm birth (preemies, prior to 37 weeks) and fetal growth restriction. Risk factors include chronic health conditions, infections, certain medications, problems with the placenta, inadequate weight gain during pregnancy, having an older child who was born preterm, multiples pregnancy, smoking, drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, domestic violence, exposure to air pollution or lead, and age (younger than 15 or older than 35).

How Fort Myers Speech Therapy Can Help Kids Who Had Low Birth Weight

A longitudinal study published in a 2019 edition of the journal Early Human Development found that by age 10, kids who had low birth weight were significantly more likely (2-3 times more) to be diagnosed with a speech-language disorder. Almost 40 percent of children with extremely low birthweight received some speech therapy.

Parents of children who had an extremely low birthweight report a higher incidence of hearing loss or the use of hearing aids. Hearing problems are often an underdiagnosed and underreported problem. It is something that our Fort Myers speech therapists will be carefully watching for as we develop treatment plans for our pediatric patients.

At FOCUS Therapy, we offer numerous services to children who had a low weight at birth and are subsequently diagnosed with developmental delays or challenges as a result. Knowing about low birth weight as a potential risk factor helps our speech therapists as we formulate and carry out each individual child’s unique plan of care.

Some areas in which we may focus for these kids:

  • Oral motor function (including feeding/swallowing).
  • Sound production.
  • Understanding sentences and questions.
  • Expressing themselves.
  • Grammar and sentence structure.
  • Reading and spelling.

Speech therapists can help ensure a child born with low birth weight is given the best possible supports to be certain they are on track with their speech-language development and have an optimal language learning environment.

If your child was born with low birth weight and you are concerned about their ability to feed/swallow or their speech-language development, contact our Fort Myers Speech Therapy team to schedule an assessment.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, and physical therapy at two locations in Fort Myers. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Additional Resources:
Low Birth weight linked to communication problems in children, Sept. 25, 2019, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
More Blog Entries:
What to Expect in a Feeding Therapy Evaluation, July 23, 2021, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog
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