The developmental status and prevalence of sensory integration difficulties in premature infants in a tertiary hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa

Elise Lecuona, Annamarie van Jaarsveld, Rita van Heerden, Jacques Raubenheimer


Introduction and aim: Research indicates that premature infants are at risk of neurological abnormalities and developmental and functional delays during infancy and early childhood. Annually, in South Africa, approximately 15% of infants are born prematurely, the majority being from low socio-economic homes. Basic needs and survival of the infant take priority over developmental progress of infants. Since developmental progress is dependent on sensory integration, the aim of this study was to determine the occurrence of developmental and sensory integration difficulties in premature infants in South Africa.

Methods: A descriptive, observational study was conducted. Relevant information on medical history and environmental factors were obtained through parent questionnaires. Three standardised assessments, the Bayley III Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, the Test of Sensory Function in Infants and the Infant/Toddler Sensory Profile, were used.

Results: Infants presented with low average to average performance in all developmental subtests. The majority (67.7%) of infants presented with typical sensory seeking behaviour. Sensory processing difficulties were identified in terms of high neurological thresholds resulting in low registration behaviour as well as low neurological thresholds, resulting in sensory sensitivity and sensory avoiding behaviour. This influenced their adaptive motor functions and normal development.

Conclusion: Premature infants participating in this research presented with challenges regarding developmental and sensory integration.

Key words: sensory integration difficulties; development; premature infants; South Africa.

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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