What Physical Therapy has Meant for My Preemie and Me

October 27, 2014

The definition for the word therapy is “therapeutic treatment especially of bodily, mental, or behavorial disorder”.  When you first discover that your preemie will need physical therapy (PT), you probably think it is only for the therapeutic treatment of something that has to do with his or her body. What I have come to realize, and also appreciate, is that a good physical therapist can be a wonderful “mental therapist” for YOU!

“How old was your baby when he began sleeping through the night?” and “how old was your baby when she first walked?” are two of the most common questions new parents ask each other.

It was not until I had a baby born eleven weeks early, that I discovered just how much more complicated such questions are for parents of preemies. I now wondered when my baby was going to first sit on his own after having not reached that particular milestone at 10-months old, and then 12-months old, and then 15-months old. It was not until he was 17-months old that he was able to sit on his own. This was also when he started crawling on hands and knees after months of belly crawling.

Fortunately, his physical therapist came into our lives early on, when he was 6-months old. His torticollis had not gone away and his pediatrician recommended he be seen by a physical therapist twice a month. Since he was already receiving speech therapy (ST) through our local early intervention program for his cleft lip and palate, it only took one phone call, and a doctor’s script, to get a physical therapist to evaluate him. After the evaluation, he was approved not just for PT to help correct his torticollis, but also to work on some gross-motor delays that were becoming apparent. As each month went by, and few milestones were being met, his physical therapist increased her visits to once a week (and he also began receiving occupational therapy (OT) to work on his fine-motor delays).

Now, at 19-months old, my preemie is sitting strong, crawling like a mad man, and pulling up to his knees. There is no doubt in my mind he will walk. In fact, his physical therapist wrote in her last evaluation that:

Benjamin will move into and out of sitting.

Benjamin will crawl on hands and knees.

Benjamin will walk.

Sitting and throwing dirt!

Sitting and throwing dirt!

Crawling off into the sunset!

Crawling off into the sunset!

So far, so good! It is evaluations that read like this one that convey just how invaluable all these therapists are, whether they do PT, OT, or ST. While doctors only focus on what they say is wrong with your preemie or what your preemie cannot do, these therapists celebrate everything your preemie can do and help him or her to do it!

Therefore, if you are a parent who is debating the effectiveness of your preemie’s current PT treatment plan or whether to even try PT at all, I encourage you to try it and stick with it. I, too, was hesitant to continue PT for my son after the first session or two because I thought I could just do the exercises with him myself. But, when it became obvious he was not “catching up” as quickly as we’d hoped, I was glad he had a physical therapist who could help him.

I was also glad I had stuck with his physical therapist when he started going to daycare not too long ago after being home with me until he was 19-months old. On his very first day when I was at work, just sick to my stomach with worry, my cellphone beeped. It was his physical therapist, texting me after she saw him at the daycare for his weekly session, letting me know how great he was doing! It was totally unexpected, and so tremendously appreciated. I was so relieved. And it was indeed the best kind of therapy!