Date of Award


Document Type

Critically Appraised Topic


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Anne Haskins

Second Advisor

Breann Lamborn

Third Advisor

Gail Bass/Devon Olson Lambert


In 2018, one in 10 infants were born premature in the United States, which is classified as being born prior to 37 weeks gestation (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2019). This includes an average of 7,303 babies each week (March of Dimes, 2020). The final months and weeks in utero are shown to be critical to typical development (CDC, 2019). The organs associated with the sensory system begin to develop within utero around eight weeks and the development of the senses continues well into childhood and adolescence (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Hearing and vision are the last two sensory systems to develop, thus are particularly immature in the preterm infant (Blackburn, 1998). As a result, those born premature are more likely to develop sensory processing disorder (SPD), vision and hearing problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety or developmental disability (CDC, 2019; March of Dimes, 2020). In one prospective longitudinal study of preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it was found that half of preterm infants born less than 30 weeks developed SPD by ages four to six years old (Ryckman, Hilton, Rogers & Pineda, 2017).