Monday, June 30, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Language is obviously a huge part of our life and something that we teach our children everyday. It can often seem overwhelming to add "language development" to the list of things that you need to work on with your preemie. There are actually a lot of everyday activities that present easy opportunities for teaching your preemie about language and how it works. Here are tips to get you started:
For preemies who are 0-6 months (adjusted):
Diaper Changing - We all know that we have to do this (many) times a day. This is a great opportunity to work on back and forth, face to face interaction. Use this time to imitate your preemie's sounds. Once you start imitating him/her and waiting for him/her to answer, your preemie will start to have a conversation.
Feedings - Eating is a social occasion. Use feeding times as a chance to help teach your preemie to signal anticipation and when he/she may want more or are done. Eye gaze, vocalization and gestures are great ways to signal that someone has had enough or wants more
Mirrors - A mirror helps your preemie recognize him/herself as someone separate from mommy or daddy. Use the mirror to teach body parts and introduce some important vocabulary.
For babies who are 6-12 months:
Peek-A-Boo - This is a great game to start teaching turn taking and cause and effect. Your preemie will also learn separation in a safe way.
Stacking Blocks - This fun game is a great way to teach your preemie about words such as up/down, on/off and Ready, Set, Go.
Cause and Effect Toys - Any toy that spins, makes noise, pops up, etc. a the push of a button or spin of a wheel is great way to teach cause and effect. As your preemie gets the concept of "if I push this, then music plays," he/she will get the concept that "if I talk, people will listen and respond."
Board Books - As I've talked about in previous posts, books are a great way to teach kids about language. Pat objects on the page and name them. Create a book with pictures or people and/or objects that your preemie knows so that he/she can start to learn and verbalize the people around her/him.
Walks - Walks are a great way to point out new, exciting things to your preemie. Pay attention to where your preemie is looking and label what he/she is looking at.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Mommy tip: this is a great book to bring out when you have had one of those days. It doesn't take a lot of thought and it's easy to mindlessly ab lib about what is on the page. It keeps your preemie entertained and eases some of the stress of having to entertain your little one when you're feeling quite into it.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
As every parent of a preemie knows, having your baby in the NICU is tough. I think almost everyone who leaves the NICU ends up feeling grateful for the care that the staff gave their preemie. I have talked to a lot of parents who want to find ways to give back to the their local NICUs and help other families who face the same situation. Here are some ways that you can give back to your NICU:
Call your local hospital/NICU and find out what they need. Some organizations have specific rules about what they can and can not accept so it's easiest to call ahead and get the details. This is a great opportunity to find out what they might really need. It may spark a new idea that you hadn't thought of.
Here are some option for things that you (and your family and friends) can do for your NICU:
Blankets and/or hats - many people make blankets or hats for NICU babies. Whether or you sew, knit, crochet or cut out some lovely fleece - making something yourself is a beautiful way to show someone you care. One of my daughter's favorite blankets today is one of the first ones she got in the NICU. We gave a lot of them back when she went home so that others could use them but that one we kept.
- Project Linus is a non-profit, national organization that donates blankets to hospitals. Check out their site for local chapters, donation information, patterns, etc.
- Need a pattern to get started? Check out this Preemie Knitting/Crochet Patterns directory for a ton of great ideas.
- Local groups - many local churches, auxiliary or other organizations make blankets or other items for hospitals so check your local area
- Not a crafter? Consider donating supplies or gift cards to craft stores so that others can purchase what they need to make items.
Memory Boxes - It is a sad fact that many preemies don't survive. No matter how short a life is, there are mementos to take home and cherish. Many hospitals provide memory boxes for parents. Memory Box Artist Program is a national program that provides boxes to hospitals around the country. If you don't want to go through them, find out if your NICU needs these boxes and get decorating. It will mean a lot to parents who are grieving.
Volunteering - Most if not all hospitals have some sort of volunteer program. Many of them include a program for people to come into the NICU and hold the babies that are there. Find out if your local hospital has this program and sign-up. Since this is often a popular program - some hospitals require you to do other volunteering within the hospital first.
NICU Support Group - Most NICUs offer some sort of support group for families. Find out if your NICU would like you to come in and share your family's story. Many parents find comfort in hearing other parents talk about what they went through. It's a great opportunity for you to share stories, advice, answer questions, etc. If your NICU doesn't have that type of program, let some of the nurses know that you are willing to talk to parents who are facing similar issues.
Donations - There are many things that NICUs could use - here are some ideas to get you started.
- Disposable cameras - some parents may not have a camera or may forget to bring one. Provide parents with disposable cameras that can be left at the bedside.
- Notebooks/Journals - Provide a small notebook for parents to keep track of how thier preemie is doing.
- Parking Passes - for hospitals that have paid parking, purchase passes for parents to use
- Magazines - bring in some of your magazines for the hospital/NICU waiting room. It can make the waiting time go by much faster if you have something to look at.
- Preemie books - buy a couple copies of your favorite/most useful preemie books and leave them in the NICU for other parents to read.
- Food/Drinks - some hospitals have a family room for parents and family members to wait. Purchase some snacks to leave in there.
- Transportation - some babies are transferred to hospitals far away from home. With gas prices getting higher every day, some parents have to choose between visiting their baby or paying rent. If you have the ability, volunteer to drive parents to and from the hospital so they can visit with their baby.
- Children's Books - Purchase some favorite children's book for siblings to read or for parents to read to their babies while they are visiting.
Do you have an idea for how to give back to your NICU? Please leave a comment.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
This week's developmental post is focused on stages of imitation skills.
We all know that kids are great imitators. Sometimes it can be good or bad, When it comes to encouraging development in your preemie, imitation can be great. Here are the various early imitation skills that your preemie may have based on adjusted age:
- 4-6 months - will imitate vocalizations and actions that he/she already knows how to do.
- 6-9 months - will imitate actions that he/she can see being done by other people that he/she already knows how to do
- 8-12 months - will imitate new sounds or gestures
- 9-12 months - will imitate unseen patterns composed of familiar actions
- 12-15 months - will imitate new movements
- 12-18 months - immediate imitation of someone else doing something
- 15-18 months - will imitate drawing a line on a piece of paper
Monday, June 16, 2008
Here are some posts that will be coming up soon:
Ways to give back to the NICU - I am still working on this one. I've found a lot of great stuff so I'm putting it all together for you.
The Tolls of Prematurity - Having a preemie can affect people in many ways. I'm preparing some posts on the emotional, physical, financial and mental toll that prematurity can have not only on parents but family and friends as well.
Developmental Post of the Week
Favorite Product of the Week
My favorite product for this post is the Infantino Pail Pets.
My mom got these for my daughter and I fell in love with them right away. Who can't love a set of animal pails that come with little "treats" for each one? What's great about these pails is that they are soft yet stackable. My daughter had a tendency to wave toys around and that resulted in the occasional whack to the head when she wasn't paying attention. With these, she could wave them around without issue. They come with a lot of great features including ears that squeak, crinkle, and shake. Obviously they can also be used as buckets which fit inside each other. Here are some ways to use these toys to encourage development:
1) Cause and Effect - Each Pail Pet has something that makes a noise when your preemie does something. Show your preemie what each ear or bucket does and then encourage him/her to do it too.
2) Put In/Take Out - These are great buckets for encouraging your preemie to take items out and put items back into a container. The great thing about these buckets is that they are different sizes so if your preemie is just learning this skill, use the small bucket so that the items are easy to grab out. Use the bigger buckets as he/she gets better at this skill.
3) Stackable - The buckets can be stacked and with their large size and soft edges, preemies can easily grab them and stack them. A great place for your preemie to get started on this skill.
4) Animal Sounds - Tell your preemie what each pail is supposed to be and then make the sound of the animal. This is a fun and easy way for your preemie to start learning animal sounds.Have Fun!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
We were off celebrating our niece's graduation yesterday - in 97 degree heat. Thank goodness my two kiddos are such awesome troopers about stuff like that. And today was my birthday so yeah. Here is the developmental post of the week. Tomorrow I will post a favorite product as well as ways to give back to your local NICU.
We all do it. All the time. All parents have some tendency to compare or at least keep track of how "on target" their little ones are. For the parents of preemies, this is basically expected and almost encouraged. While keeping track and comparing how your preemie is doing compared to expected results or other children, try not to let it consume your worry. Once we start worrying about it too much, we start pushing too much. And that isn't good for anyone.
Depending on the level of services you are getting for your preemie, you will most likely be given certain things to "work on" with your preemie. My own personal experience has been that consistently working with a preemie on certain activities, developmental milestones, etc. works well. However, be careful that you aren't spending all your time just trying to get your preemie to the next milestone. Here are some tips to maximize the benefit of actively working on developmental milestones.
1) Think short vs. long - If you have a specific thing/activity/exercise that you want/need to work on with your preemie, try to do it for a short amount of concentrated time. For example, we are trying to get my daughter to squat down and then stand up again. I take about 5-10 minutes several times a day to work on that specific thing. She usually tells me when she has had enough and I try to honor those cues so that I don't stress or tire her out. Sometimes if you do something for a short amount of time your preemie will reap the benefit without getting too upset about it.
2) Frequent sessions - Try and do concentrated development time several times throughout the day. I usually try and take 5-10 minutes at least 3 times a day to do something specific with my daughter (vs. just play time). It's easier to fit 5 minutes a few times a day into your schedule rather than an hour each day.
3) Keep it fun. Use toys, singing, dancing, etc. to make your developmental therapy time fun and enjoyable for both of you. Involve older siblings in the activities as well. The more your preemie associates this time with fun than the more likely they are to keep doing it.
4) Walk away - sometimes either you or your preemie are just not into it at a certain time. If you find yourself (or your preemie) getting frustrated, crabby, cranky, etc. than stop and go do something else.
5) Try not to compare too much - this is hard to do but don't spend a lot of time comparing what your preemie is doing compared to other kids/other preemies/advice books. There are a lot of factors that go into development and it is important to really take that into account. Be tuned in to the specific progress your preemie is making, check with your doctor and use that as your guide.
6) Write it down - if you do have concerns about something specific that your preemie is or is not doing than write it down and take it with you to your next appointment. Once you have written it down (or called to talk to the doctor) try and let the worry go until you have spoken to your doctor and determined whether or not it is something to worry about. Hard to do but it really does help for overall mental health.
Coming soon: How to deal with family, friends and total strangers when it comes to your preemie's development.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
This party post is devoted to celebrating that special milestone in a babies' life - turning one! Turning one is a big milestone for any baby but for preemies it is often a truly momentous occasion and an opportunity to celebrate just how far your preemie has come. Here are some ideas for celebrating a year in the life of your preemie:
1) One and a half is the new one - if your preemie was born during RSV season, hold off having a big party for him/her until the safer summer months. Our daughter was born in January so we just had her "1 1/2" year birthday this month. We told everyone in her coming home announcement that this is what we would be doing so it wasn't a surprise. Our friends and family still had a chance to celebrate her first birthday with her and we didn't have to be as worried about people touching and interacting with her.
2) A year in photographs - Pictures speak volumes so put together a collection of photographs of your preemie's first year for people to look at. Choose a selection from the NICU to now so that guests can really "see" how far your preemie has come. Here are some ways to incorporate them into your party:
- Hang them up around the room - make them a part of your party decorations.
- Create an album or spread them on a table.
- Make them into place mats - Laminate them so the pictures don't get ruined.
- Make them a game - have people put them in chronological order or guess which one came from a certain time frame.
- Make small pictures, glue or tape a toothpick to the bottom and then put them on cupcakes.
4) NICU Memory - See how many of your guests remember things about the NICU. Create a game that tests their knowledge. Feel free to email me if you would like a word find or word definition match game to use at your party.
5) My own space - Depending on where you have your party, make sure you set up a spot with toys, shade (if needed) and anything else that your preemie might want for a little down time. Give him/her some time to hang out away from everyone if he/she is getting overwhelmed by all of the people and activity at the party.
6) Fun Themes - Here are some fun themes that can relate to preemies -
- Alice in Wonderland "Unbirthday" - this is a great theme if you have a 1 1/2 birthday. Butterfly - I like using butterflies because they signify great, beautiful change that often occurs with preemies too.
- Turtle - Slow and steady. Another great animal that matches the pace of some preemies.
Do you have a great idea for celebrating preemies? Please leave a comment or email me!
Monday, June 9, 2008
Here are some posts that will be appearing this week:
Celebrating Your Preemie - Party ideas for celebrating your preemie
Developmental Wednesday - weekly post focused on encouraging your preemie's development
Giving Back - Suggestions and resources for how you can give back to your local NICU
Favorite Product Friday - weekly post focused on a favorite product of mine
Both of my kids loved (and still love this toy). The concept is easy which is perhaps why it is so appealing. You pull the yellow lever, the arrow spins and then it makes the sound of the animal the arrow lands on. There are quite a few options for See N' Says these days - Princess, Elmo, Farm, etc. Here are some great ways to use this toys to encourage your preemie's development.
1) Cause and Effect - As you pull the lever, show your preemie how the arrow moves around and makes noise. Encourage your preemie to "help" you pull the lever at first and then once he/she is able to, let him/her pull it alone.
2) Encouraging Movement - if your preemie is interested in this toy, use it to encourage your preemie to crawl, reach, do tummy time, stand, etc.
3) Vocalizing - This is a great toy to use when encouraging your preemie to make sounds. Point to the animals and make the animal sound. Encourage your preemie to imitate you. Or if your preemie makes a sound similar to an animal sound then tell him/her "That's right. Baaa. A Sheep says baaa."
4) Animal picture/sound recognition - this is also a great toy to use when your preemie starts being able to recognize pictures/things. Ask your preemie, "Where is the dog?" and encourage him/her to point to the correct picture.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
This week's developmental Wednesday is dedicated to symbolic play.
Words and language are a series of symbols. Children need to think in symbols before they can really make sense of language. Letting your preemie play with a doll or teddy bear is one of the first steps of symbolic play. At a later stage, symbolic play will help your preemie extend more complex vocabulary.
Here are some ways to get your preemie started with symbolic play.
1) Doll or Teddy Bear - offer your preemie a doll or teddy bear that is only for him/her. Give the doll or teddy bear a name.
2) Start by hugging or kissing the doll/teddy bear and then encourage your preemie to do the same. Give your preemie a chance to bond with the doll/teddy bear and then "take care of it." Showing affection is a good place to start.
3) Give your preemie items that will allow him/her to take care of the doll/teddy bear. Create a kit that includes items like a hairbrush, toothbrush, cup, spoon, bowl, and blanket. Show your preemie the items and then encourage him/her to use each one on the doll or teddy bear. Describe what you (and then them) are doing - "look, I'm brushing the doll's hair" or "the doll is hungry, let's feed her."
Have fun playing and watching your preemie develop his/her skills in language and play!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Many families of premature babies are offered early intervention (EI) services. While these services can be helpful and useful, it can also be frustrating. Here are some tips to make your early intervention program work for you.
1. Early intervention vs. doctors. Unlike doctors (who are normally there to do procedures, tell you when/how to treat something, etc), early intervention services should give you ideas and suggestions for things you can do at home with your preemie. EI is there to help you help your preemie. Giving you physical, developmental and emotion ideas and support to ensure your preemie continues to develop appropriately. This is a key difference and keeping it in mind will help you determine if the services you receive are what you want/need.
2. Establish goals. Your EI team should create goals for your preemie (with your help). Normally they are 6 month goals however there is nothing wrong with creating shorter term goals as well. These goals are a great way to determine if things are working and if progress is being made. Your preemie may not always meet the goals in the time frame specified, but it is a good way to know if things are on track. Make sure you put your input into the goals. You know your preemie the best so you can help establish realistic goals. If you aren't happy with a goal or think that one is unnecessary - speak up! For example, my son was a horrible sleeper as a child. He wouldn't go down on his own and we didn't opt to do the "cry it out" technique. Every 6 months our developmental therapist would put down "go to sleep on his own" or some variation and every 6 months he wouldn't meet it. I had to explain that this was not an area where I needed their assistance so we finally were able to let it go. On the flip side, if you think something should be on there that is not - ask to have it included.
3. Personality fit. It's important that you and the specialists are a good fit personality wise. This doesn't mean that they need to be friend material - just that you can handle seeing them frequently and you appreciate their approach to things. I had one specialist who really got on my nerves - it made it hard to really focus what she was talking about because I just sat there annoyed. That isn't helpful for anyone. If you don't like someone (to the point that you can't work with them) or you don't like how a specialist works with your child and/or their approach to early intervention than ask for someone else. This is especially important if you are seeing this person frequently and they are working closely with you and your preemie.
4. Ask questions. The early intervention specialists should be showing you how to do things with your preemie at home/when they aren't there. Make sure you understand what they are saying or showing you. Also find out why they are suggesting something - what is the goal of the movement, activity or game. The more you understand, the better you will be able to work on it yourself (or come up with a personalized way to do it).
5. Ask for more or less. Some preemies end up "catching up" up faster than others so you may want to scale back the number of times you see the developmental therapist. Other preemies need more services. Let your coordinator know what you require so that changes can be made. The more you take control of these services - the more you can ensure that you are getting what you need (and not more or less).
6. At home vs. School setting - Depending on your preemie's health/situation and/or regional offerings, you may receive early intervention services at home or in a school setting. Both options have their pros and cons. I encourage you to try out what is offered and then decide if it is something you want to continue doing.