Abstract

This single-subject research study with replication evaluated the effect of daily occupational therapy on the nutritive and nonnutritive sucking behaviors of three high-risk, premature infants. At the time of entrance into the study, the infants were 34 to 35 weeks old and were documented poor feeders. Treatment consisted of individual, multimodal sensory stimulation, with emphasis on proprioceptive and vestibular input, graded to the sensory needs of the infants. Movement components of the jaw and tongue during nutritive and nonnutritive sucking were measured during baseline and intervention phases to assess the infants’ sucking ability. A comparison of testing results revealed that during intervention the total sucking scores improved significantly for two of the three infants and that rapid changes occurred in the oral-motor function of all three infants. The results of the study suggest that occupational therapy can improve the rate of development of sucking in the premature neonate. However, future research needs to be done to isolate the specific techniques of treatment that produce positive changes.

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