The National Association of Neonatal Therapists (NANT) is an organization created specifically for neonatal occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists. NANT provides multiple ways for neonatal therapists to connect, learn, mentor and inspire while advancing this focused field of therapy on a national level.
NANT Pre-Conference: Understand Neonatal Touch and Therapeutic Handling and Positioning on a Whole New Level
By Sue Ludwig February 2, 2016
As a new neonatal therapist you learned about positioning. Not just flexion, containment, alignment and comfort, but WHY it matters to all of the infant’s subsystems. These were just the basics of course.
As you developed as a therapist, you began to understand that touch, positioning and handling were not merely tasks, and were not limited to isolated moments during care. You realized that ALL interactions, especially highly repetitive ones, contribute to the foundation of the infant’s sensory system development. (Among other things.)
Since you’re a therapist (OT, PT or SLP) you fully grasp the concept ‘neurons that fire together wire together’ and you’re able to connect the dots fairly well – whether the dots are repetitive noxious experiences, repetitive supportive experiences (like skin-to-skin holding), total absence of parental presence or consistent parental interaction.
But if you’re a neonatal therapist who has been practicing for a decade or three, what can you learn about the importance of touch or the effects of handling that you don’t already know?
As it turns out – a lot.
Having spoken at length to the presenters of the NANT Pre-Conference sessions, I promise that you will leave that day looking through a new lens.
Take just one sentence from the description of Mary Coughlin’s presentation: “A simple touch can convey sensitivity and compassion or indifference and animosity and the difference is detected at a cellular level very early in development.”
Sign me up for that. I want to know more. I’m intrigued beyond words to better understand how a caregiver’s touch, actions and intentions contribute to the emotional competencies of infants in the NICU.
And if you know anything about John Chappel and Lino Cedros (presenting session 2 of the Pre-Con), you know that your mind will be opened to a whole new level of expertise and insight about the babies you see.
Between the manual therapy focus and the link to GI function – all 3 therapy disciplines will benefit. They will introduce the concept of Individualized Synactive Manual Positional Caregiving©, focusing on the cranial/cervical spine complex, and how it can promote G.I functional development in the NICU infant. Just for starters.
Both sessions leave you with tangible take-homes as well. For example, in session 2 you will outline specific aspects of therapeutic positioning and handling to promote optimal gastrointestinal synchronicity and prevent dysfunction throughout the entire system. In session 1 you will create an action plan and algorithm to guide emotionally responsive caregiving in the NICU.
Experienced therapists – this Pre-Con is for you. Pack up all your neurons, grab some coffee, and we’ll see you there.
By Sue Ludwig January 26, 2016