Developmental Therapy Services

University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado have highly specialized developmental therapies for infants admitted to the respective Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). These therapies range from reducing stress to providing sensory and motor experiences to maximize optimal infant development. The services provided address ways to decrease the risk of plagiocephaly (flattening of the head), osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) and sensory overstimulation.

Developmental Therapy at the University of Colorado Hospital

The developmental therapy team at the NICU at University of Colorado Hospital consists of occupational, physical, and speech/language therapists who specialize in providing developmental therapies for newborns and infants. Typically, the therapists work with newborns at greatest risk of developmental delays, which include those born at 33 weeks or less or who are small for their gestational age; those exposed to drug and/or alcohol in-utero; and those with genetic abnormalities. Nurses and physicians also may recommend newborns for therapies based on other needs or concerns.

First, a therapist performs an evaluation and then may recommend treatment to address specific sensory, physical and/or feeding areas of development. Therapy treatments are generally provided a half hour before the infant is due to have a diaper change and to be fed, minimizing disruption and allowing for improved sleep. Families are always welcome and encouraged to participate in therapy sessions.

Working closely with the NICU nursing staff and medical team, the therapists also help teach parents supportive care and positioning options to promote development. These practices can include.

  • How to promote optimal infant development
  • Identification of infant stress cues and ways to reduce them
  • Various types of infant massage
  • Ways to encourage development of the senses
  • Positioning options
  • Techniques and exercises to improve breast or bottle feeding
  • Exercises to perform after being discharged from the hospital

Developmental Therapy at Children’s Hospital Colorado

Specially trained in treating pre-term and ill newborns, occupational and physical therapists at the NICU at Children’s Hospital Colorado focus on helping newborns overcome potential developmental challenges. Occupational therapists help improve oral-motor skills and promote healthy development through positioning and environmental techniques while physical therapists focus on exercises to promote movement and foster muscle tone. More information about occupational and physical therapy in the NICU at Children’s Hospital Colorado can be found here.