Prematurity research shows that there is a real divide between the actual age of a child born prematurely and their adjusted age. For example, Sutton is almost three years of age (34 months to be exact), but his adjusted age accounts for the time he should have been developing in the womb. It places him at 31 months - which would put him more in the range of capabilities a two and a half year old possesses, give or take. Past theory proclaimed that once a premature child reached two years of age, that they had fully adjusted and closed the gap on this divide, and there would be no need for further developmental therapy. New studies prove this just isn't true. Of course some of a young child's development is strongly influenced by their experiences, but much of a child's development is going to unfold as their body grows and develops in a set biological sequence. By assessing a premature child's language skills, problem solving skills, behavior and fine/gross motor skills, it can help parents and educators anticipate a child's needs. This can extend well beyond the formative years of a premature child's life.
I recognize we are a people that LOVE to measure things. We measure everything - weight, height, grades, profits, team standings - even the square footage of our homes in the hopes that it fits a particular standard. In the world of parenting, measuring often leads to comparisons. But when does that standard for comparison go out the window? Parents of premature children know this struggle all too well, as it's almost our job to compare. It's actually healthy for us to evaluate our preemies through early intervention and developmental therapy; to watch them and make mental "progress reports" of their abilities. I believe it only becomes detrimental when comparisons become competition. With that said, I just want to acknowledge that I know it's difficult at times to remain patient as you witness other children reach milestones that your child hasn't. Feeling that pain is okay, but if you accept and encourage your child within the realm of their capabilities instead of focusing on what your child is limited by, it lifts that burden and guilt. You know what has really helped me? Staying focused on how far my son has come in his own walk towards independence and growth. For a micro preemie he is doing amazingly well. Every journey is unique - embrace your child's and yours!