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Supporting Preemies and Families

Whenever a premature baby is born at 34 weeks or less at Virginia Hospital Center, the parents will meet Christine Wallin, EdD, infant developmental specialist with the Developmental Follow-up Clinic.
Dr. Wallin, who has more than 30 years experience working with premature infants and their families, performs an early developmental screening of the baby. Then she talks to the parents about where the baby is in terms of movement and behavior, and gives them information about the next steps in development. As the mother of a premature baby herself, Dr. Wallin brings both a personal and professional perspective to evaluations and interventions.
Although most preemies develop normally, they often develop differently than babies who are born closer to their due date. "You need to adjust their age for the first 18 months or maybe longer. If a baby is born at 32 weeks, you need to think about her being two months younger than she is and look at her development from that perspective," explains Dr. Wallin.
Once the baby goes home, Dr. Wallin sees the baby at the Hospital's Developmental Follow-up Clinic. Parents have the option to come back for evaluations at the clinic every three to four months, or more frequently, until their child goes to kindergarten. She evaluates children in all areas of development by discussing their progress with parents and watching the child play, communicate and move. Parents are given suggested activities to further facilitate development between clinic visits. The evaluations are "100 percent play-based and driven by parents' concerns," Dr. Wallin says. "It's about building relationships," she says. "I'm listening to families, hearing their concerns and what they're proud of. This gives me a good idea of how the child is functioning developmentally."
It's important to keep following children as they get older. "A baby may be doing really well at 9 months, but struggle verbally at 18 or 24 months or have difficulty with fine motor skills at 3 years," notes Dr. Wallin. "Early intervention makes a huge difference for at-risk preemies."

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