Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Developmental Update, 2 Years Adjusted

One of our appointments last week was Becca's 2-year visit to the NICU follow-up clinic. We were sad to find out that Dr. Daily had retired, but we got to once again see Odessa Settles, who I believe has been working with preemies at Vandy for 40-some-odd years. Wow. She's extra cool because she's a vocalist on the side, appearing as a regular cast member on Tokens, "Nashville's New 'Old Time' Radio Show." In fact, they are recording an episode at the Ryman on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and the guests include Keb' Mo' and Shane Claiborne. John and I are going, so let me know if you'd like to join us...or if you want to hug an Itty Bitty that night. ;)

But back to Becca. This visit involved a complete Bayley exam, which measures development in 5 areas: cognitive (thinking and figuring things out), receptive language (words she understands), expressive language (words she actually uses), fine motor skills (tiny movements) and gross motor skills (big movements). (The previous link describes the 5 areas in more detail, if you are interested.) For each area, I'll give you 4 scores: the overall average for kids taking the test, her score based on her actual age (27 months), her score based on her adjusted age (24 months - remember, this is based on her due date "birthday"), and her age-equivalent.

Cognitive: Average = 85-115
Actual = 95
Adjusted = 105
Age-Equivalent = 25 months
Receptive: Average = 10
Actual = 10
Adjusted = 12
Age-Equivalent = 26 months
Expressive: Average = 10
Actual = 8
Adjusted = 9
Age-Equivalent = 22 months
Fine Motor: Average = 10
Actual = 8
Adjusted = 10
Age-Equivalent = 23 months
Gross Motor: Average = 10
Actual = 6
Adjusted = 7
Age-Equivalent = 18 months

When thinking about these scores, keep in mind a few things:
  • These scores are a snapshot of the tasks she was able to complete on a particular morning. I'd say that she was pretty much herself that morning, though she did get tired by the end of the 2-hour exam (go figure).
  • When looking at month-by-month age equivalents, our goal is still for her to track according to her adjusted age. Many doctors, schools, therapists, etc. stop adjusting for prematurity at age 2, but folks in the NICU follow-up clinic say to give micro-preemies (preemies born weighing less than 2 pounds) until age 3 to catch up. In other words, she will look more delayed because most assessments stop adjusting, but don't get too worried about lack of developmental catch-up until she is 3. (But then again, much of a child's developmental trends are well in place by age 3; that's why many public health organizations focus on the 0-3 years.)
  • Given her history, every single one of these scores is absolutely amazing and far better than we even risked imagining 2.5 years ago.
  • And the usual caveat: no developmental assessment (or any standardized test) is perfect.
That being said, these scores are okay. I wouldn't say she blew it out of the water or anything, but none of these scores is really surprising. Based on her adjusted age (24 months), she is delayed in expressive language (by 2 months), fine motor skills (by one month) and, most significantly, gross motor skills (by six months). Based on her actual age, she is delayed in every category, the most dramatically so being her 9 month delay in gross motor skills. This score is even more sobering when I realize that had she not started walking this summer or had we done the assessment at our regularly scheduled appointment (the day after her birthday), she would have scored at an 11-12 month level for gross motor skills. The positive flip-side of that is that she gained 6 months worth of skills in 2 months just by learning to walk. So I'm pretty sure that Jane and Ashley (our physical therapists) deserve a very big shout-out on that one. In fact, let's take a minute to thank ALL of our incredible therapists: Cindy, Jane, Caroline, Karla, Roxanna, Ashley, Tom and Melissa. Without their help, I shudder to think of how far behind we'd be. As much as I get sick of carting the kiddo around to appointment after appointment, I am so thankful for all the work and love these therapists have poured into my sweet child. It really does pay off!

Based on these scores, we're not sure if Becca is going to qualify for special education services when she turns 3. I don't know if I've mentioned it on here or not, but at age 3, kids with special needs shift from Early Intervention to the public school system for their services. When we moved, we made it a priority to live in a school district with a very good special education program in case we needed it (whether for Becca or for our other potential preemies down the line...and yes, John and I do plan that far ahead for such extenuating circumstances...at least when buying a house!). We'll begin our transition meetings with Early Intervention and Williamson County Schools in January, and they will do another round of assessments, but it looks like she may be borderline for services, depending on which ones they consider primary vs. related. (For example, in many school systems, physical therapy is a related service, meaning that you can't qualify for special education services on physical delays alone. However, if you qualify, say, on speech, you can receive physical therapy at the school as part of your Individual Education Plan.) I know, I know, I'm getting ahead of myself here, but, wow...that's really not that far away! I would be thrilled if she flat-out didn't need services, but I'm afraid that she will fall just above the cut-off and not end up getting the services that would really benefit her. Especially if we lose our TennCare at our next review in the spring, we'd be left with muchos therapy bills. (And therapy is NOT cheap. I opened a bill from PT recently, and each 1-hour session was running about $300. Holy crap.) For now, I try not to think about it too much!

The most important point, though, is that Becca is making tremendous progress. Given the incredible odds stacked against her, she has exceeded everyone's expectations. In fact, if she were taking her O.W.L's, I would have given her straight "O's," for "Outstanding." Yes, we have lots of therapy in our future. (Now that I think of it, I was really hoping that she'd come out with amazing scores and we'd be able to drop some sessions...but we're not there yet.) Yes, we have to do a lot of hard work at home. But yes, she is -- and will continue to be -- absolutely amazing. I'm very proud of you, little girl!


  1. Way to go, Becca! She is definitely defying expectations for a baby born at 370 grams. She certainly deserves Os! Well done!

  2. It is amazing how far she has come! Good for her (and you)!

  3. I'm so proud of you, Becca! It's amazing all that has happened in just 27 months. Can't wait to see where she'll be in another two years. Writing her first book, I would bet! :)