The Jennifer Gandel Kachura Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
(NICU) population includes infants who are acutely ill or premature and who are often unstable, fragile and easily compromised by environmental conditions. Occupational therapy
and developmental intervention in the NICU helps protect these babies from excessive or inappropriate sensory aspects of the environment and also helps the family and caregivers in promoting optimal development for these infants.
This includes the development of age-appropriate:
- Sensorimotor processing
- Caregiver-child bonding
- Neurobehavioral organization
Occupational therapy plays an important role to help the infants organize and regulate the environment and stimuli around them. Often these babies have a difficult time adjusting to being outside the womb. Occupational therapists assist these infants with regulating touch, sound, and light.
Occupational therapists also assist with optimal positioning of the infant in the isolette and/or crib as well as provide education to caregivers regarding supportive ways to hold the infant. Special supports in the form of positioning devices and splints may be used to help manage muscle tone or range of motion.
The infant’s ability to properly feed is also addressed by the occupational therapist in the NICU as needed. When the baby is transitioning to oral feedings, occupational therapy will assess feeding readiness, and focus on the quality of the feeding skills, which includes suck-swallow-breathe coordination and the ability for an infant to maintain a calm organized state during feeding.
Parents are included in the occupational therapy treatment plan of care and are trained in the necessary skills as needed.