Developmental Follow-up Program
Our Developmental Follow-up Program helps babies who have undergone specialized heart care overcome the potential developmental challenges to which they are prone. We’re recognized across the country for establishing the first cardiac Developmental Follow-up Program in the nation. Our team of specialists will monitor and foster your child's healthy development so he or she can live life to the fullest.
The critical first three years
For many reasons, skills like talking, crawling, and playing can develop more slowly in children who have had heart surgery or care for complex congenital (present at birth) heart defects early in life. They can also be more susceptible to other medical conditions.
Our developmental experts, including a highly-specialized developmental pediatrician, nurses, and occupational, physical, and speech therapists, will stay close to your child, especially during the important first three years of life. They will work with you to monitor for developmental delays and encourage your child’s abilities in many areas of life. We recommend that all children with complex heart disease or who undergo surgery as infants participate in follow-up even if doing well. Our team is skilled in detecting subtle signs of a deficit that may respond well to early therapy.
Developmental Follow-up Program staff regularly will conduct a total assessment of your baby's growth and progress in all areas of development, also called “neurodevelopment.” We like to see and evaluate children every six months through age 3, but you are welcome to participate in the program at any time. Each neurodevelopmental assessment will look at progress to date and keep track of milestones and measures in areas including:
- Motor skills
- Play skills
- Language development
Partnering with parents and physicians
As parents, you are vital members of your child’s care team. After each assessment, program staff will share results and will send a report to both your baby's cardiologist and primary care doctor. The results will include an action plan of things you can do between visits to help boost your child's neurodevelopment.
Caring for a child undergoing treatment or recovering from a medical condition can be stressful for families, with or without developmental delays. Our team members are ready support you, as needed, with stress reduction strategies and relaxation techniques.
Resources as your child matures
For children ages 4 and older, Herma Heart Center’s pediatric psychologist can help parents with their child's transition into school. As necessary, the psychologist can work closely with school officials to educate them about your child's special care needs.
We recommend that children have an updated neurodevelopmental assessment at least once during the preschool, school-age, and adolescent years. Short-term psychotherapy services are available for children with behavioral or emotional difficulties related to their congenital heart disease.