When Tiago and Aviana were born two months prematurely, doctors told their parents that they would need to adjust expectations for the twins’ development. Developmental milestones including walking and speaking would likely develop on a different timeline than that of full term babies. Sitting for the average baby is usually around six to nine months. For Tiago and Aviana, it was much later.
Children born prematurely have a higher risk of developmental delay or disability through the first five years of life compared with healthy term infants. As an infant, that can mean taking longer to develop skills needed to lift their head or roll over. As a baby and toddler, it can mean delays with walking, speech, and social development.
During their first seven weeks of life, while most babies are adjusting to their new homes, the twins remained in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, where they could be monitored while their lungs developed and they gained the additional weight they needed to be able to regulate body temperature. At their doctor’s referral their parents, Amy and Andres decided to seek out assistance from Northwest Center's Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) team to work with their family when Tiago and Aviana were ready to come home.
Tiago and Aviana worked with two Northwest Center team members; Speech Pathologist, Nicki Jones, and Occupational Therapist, Jenn Nash. “My goal is to empower parents to learn strategies to facilitate their own child’s language development in their everyday routines and activities,” says Nicki.
To the average onlooker, a visit from Nicki and Jenn often looks like an afternoon of play, and, says Amy, it is in many ways. "We are really just playing, but they (Nicki and Jenn) show us how to take those activities and add components to it that are also strengthening skills. So if a ball is bouncing we would say ‘bounce, bounce, bounce,’ to help them associate words with those actions. If we are stacking blocks, we would say, ‘up, up, up,’ and then ‘down, down, down,’” explains Amy.
The purpose, explains Nicki, is to find activities that the twins are motivated by to help encourage language. Visits might include having lunch, reading a book, or exploring a box of toys. Through these types of activities the team is able to work on skills like eating, drinking, fine motor and communication.
“They helped a significant amount with getting them to where they are now, especially walking,” recalls Amy. “I had read a ton and researched everything I could find about ways to encourage their development, but sometimes it’s just nice to have someone who is formally trained in this field to guide you through the process.”
Now 18-months-old, the twins are bubbly, energetic toddlers who steal the hearts of everyone they meet and who are right on track for their development. Tiago and Aviana are now walking independently, crawling up stairs, turning pages in books, scribbling with crayons, using 10 -20 words and signs, imitating gestures, and drinking from sippy cups.
Nicki says, “They have such a strong bond with each other. They are the same in just as many ways as they are different. They are so friendly and fun. And, of course, they also have a very wonderful family that’s dedicated to them.”
Our services for children provide early intervention, inclusive early childhood education, and after school programs. For more information about Northwest Center Kids and how you can get involved, contact us.
This story was originally published as part of Northwest Center's 50th anniversary project: 50 Stories Worth Sharing
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