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Special Topic Course 31: When Our Hands Touch Our Babies, Everything Changes

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Speaker: Catherine R. Smith, PhD, DPT, PCS, CNT 

Catherine Smith

Topic: When Our Hands Touch Our Babies, Everything Changes  

Course Description: This course will review general guidelines to consider when developing and applying handling interventions in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  The benefits of using manual contacts to support neuromotor development in preterm infants will be discussed, and the potential negative effects of applying incorrect augmented facilitation techniques will be reviewed. 

Speaker Bio:

Catherine R. Smith, PT, DPT, PhD, PCS, CNT, holds the Doctor of Physical Therapy and PhD in Human Ecology.  She currently serves as Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is an ABPTS Board Certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist in Physical Therapy (recertified, 2013), and is an NTNCB Board Certified Neonatal Therapist (certified, 2017).  She is also a certified BNBAS, NIDCAP and GM examiner. Dr. Smith has been an invited speaker for over 60 educational sessions at professional meetings and continuing education courses at the national, state and regional level in the United States, with 33 of the presentations having been also disseminated electronically as multimedia continuing education courses specifically addressing different aspects of developmental care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She has provided guest lectures, workshops and seminars internationally in 9 European universities in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain, Romania and Bosnia as well as having observed and participated in direct clinical services internationally in central and western Europe and the Caribbean.   

Dr. Smith served on the APTA Pediatric Academy Task Force to develop and publish the 1999 NICU Competencies for physical therapists working in the NICU setting.  She is a member of the National Association of Neonatal Therapists (NANT) Professional Collaborative to develop core scope of practice and core competency document for therapists representing PT, OT and SLP providing services in the NICU practice setting.  Recent publication includes: Craig JW, Smith CR. Risk adjusted / neuroprotective care services in the NICU: The elemental role of the neonatal therapist (OT, PT, SLP). J Perinatol (2020) 40:549–559 

Dr. Smith has served as mentor for professionals from multiple disciplines for practice in the NICU and early intervention follow up services for NICU graduates through formal and informal teaching for over 30 years (including professionals from PT, OT, Speech, Nursing, Medical Residents, Neonatal Nurse Practitioners, Respiratory Therapy and early intervention educators).  She has served on multiple advisory boards and provided consulting support at the local, regional, national and international level, and she was recently awarded the prestigious Humanitarian of the Year (2020) award by the American Physical Therapy Association.  Additionally, she received the National Association of Neonatal Therapists NICU Pioneer Award (2015) and the TPTA Physical Therapy Educator of the Year (2015). 


00:00-05:00 min:    Introduction to topic and definition of terms 
05:00-10:00 min:   Review basic neural science of early brain development 
10:00-20:00 min:   Overview conceptual framework undergirding interventional touch for preterm infants 
20:00-30:00 min:   Present potential positive and negative outcomes of manual contacts on physiologic systems influencing movement patterns of preterm infants 
30:00-50:00 min:    Explain factors influencing decisions to apply augmented input to the CNS through the use of manual contacts or to refrain from touching the infant 
50:00-65:00 min:    Case applications to describe manual dynamic support techniques that enhance self-regulatory motor responses, reduce stress reactivity and support resilience in low-threshold preterm infants 
65:00-75:00 min:   Summary 
75:00-90:00 min: Recorded question and answer session 
90:00-94:00 min: learning assessment 


Catherine R. Smith, PT, DPT, PhD, PCS, CNT, 

Financial Disclosures: No relevant disclosures 
Nonfinancial Disclosures: Speaker is a member of the NPC and is on the NANT 11 Planning Committee  

Conflict of Interest: There is no conflict of interest for anyone with the ability to control content for this activity. 

Target Audience:  OT, SLP, PT and neonatal professionals 

Educational Level: Advanced 


  1. Define the influence of augmented input to the central nervous system (CNS) via manual contacts on biomechanical, neuromuscular and sensorimotor systems of preterm infants 
  2. List the factors that influence decisions regarding when, where, how and why to augment input to the CNS via manual contacts 
  3. Select manual dynamic support techniques that enhance self-regulatory motor responses, reduce stress reactivity and support resilience in low-threshold preterm infants 

Instructional Methods: Recorded webinar, lecture, PowerPoint handouts, and recorded question and answer session. Learning assessment and course evaluation follow course.   

Course Completion Requirements: 

The learner must view the entire webinar, complete the course evaluation and complete the post webinar learning assessment with at least 80% to receive education credit. Login and logout times will be recorded and documented. 

Following completion of this course physical therapists, nurses and other disciplines will receive a certificate of completion and a zip file containing information necessary to submit to their individual state for education credit. Zip file will include course bibliography. Physical therapists are responsible for knowing and adhering to their state’s deadlines, rules and regulations. 

Registration information:

In order to obtain access to the course, click the “Watch now” button at the bottom of the screen. You are required to be a NANT member in good standing to have access to this course. You may also purchase this course as a non-member by clicking the “Buy Now” button at the bottom of the screen.  

For ADA accommodations, please call NANT Customer Service for more information at (866) 999-5524. 

 Cancellation Policy: Click HERE to review NANT’s Course Cancellation Policy.  



National Association of Neonatal Therapists® (NANT) is an AOTA Approved Provider of professional development. Course approval ID# 03661. This Distance Learning-Independent Course is offered at 0.15 CEUs (Intermediate level, Occupational Therapy Service Delivery). AOTA does not endorse specific course content, products, or clinical procedures.  


ASHA CEUs: Learners must complete the entire course in order to receive ASHA CEUs. No partial credit awarded. ASHA CE Provider approval and use of the Brand Block does not imply endorsement of course content, specific products or clinical procedures. 

ASHA CE Registry users: NANT will submit ASHA CEUs to ASHA on your behalf.  ASHA CEUs may take up to 100 days show on your ASHA Transcript. 

Non-ASHA CE Registry users:  Maintain your course records and please keep your registry status current in your NANT account.  Update your NANT account with your ASHA number if your registry status changes.  NANT is not responsible for tracking your registry status. 

PT CE Credit:  This activity has been approved by the Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners for 1.5 CCUs for PTs and PTAs.  

NANT is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Physical Therapy as an approved provider of physical therapy and physical therapist assistant continuing education. 

*NANT 11 attendees who previously viewed this educational content may retake this course and receive CE Credit. 

Questions regarding CE credit should be directed to the National Association of Neonatal Therapists at or (866) 999-5524. 

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