According to the March of Dime, 8% of infants born each year in Canada are premature. The World Health Organization’s definition of premature is an infant born before 37 weeks gestation. Often infants who are born premature have delays in early milestones of development including speech delays or language delays. Some of these delays may be due to medical issues related to being premature or the simple fact that they need to focus on earlier growth and development after birth that would have happened before birth with a full-term infant. Wide spread understanding is that these delays and the gap between full term and pre-term infants narrows as the child grows.
Early intervention in the areas of speech and language for children who were born premature can help to narrow this developmental gap. Speech-Language pathologists can work with parents to implement strategies to increase language development, help parents to understand the stage in language development that their child may be at, what to expect and where to go from that point. As with any skill which may be delayed or difficult, early identification and intervention is key to success; and key to narrowing the developmental gap for premature infants.
Written by: Stephanie Mathias, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.