Advances in medical technology, perinatal care, and neonatal intensive care have greatly increased the rate of survival for neonates born with a variety of medical problems and very low birth weights. The majority survive relatively sequelae free, although evidence still indicates that they remain at higher than normal risk for physical, mental, and social development. As the number of medical complications increases and birthweight decreases, the expectations for normal development become less promising. The kinds of stimulation the early postnatal environment provides have been identified as important factors in the infant’s growth and development. The effects of providing patterned stimulation to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit have been investigated by many. Despite difficulties in comparing studies due to the variability of subjects used, and type, intensity, and duration of treatment, the overwhelming evidence indicates beneficial effects.
Request reprints from Beverly D. Ulrich, Department of Health and Physical Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.