Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Sclinda Janssen


The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) setting is a very dynamic, complex environment that can greatly affect the well-being and physical development of pre-term infants. Pre-term infants are defined as infants born earlier than 37 weeks’ gestation (CDC, 2021). AOTA (2018) researchers stated that a pre-term infant does not have the self-regulatory tools to adapt to the complex and highly stressful NICU environment. Pineda et al. (2017) explained that the environment within the NICU presents many adverse sensory stimuli such as bright lights, loud noises, and stressful human touches. When infants are unable to manage environmental sensory exposures appropriately due to their undeveloped regulatory systems, their neurodevelopment can be compromised causing cognitive, social, emotional, and physical deficits that limit attainment of important occupational milestones such as feeding and communicating (e.g. crying). Authors explained that it is crucial to skillfully modulate sensory environments to match infants' sensory processing abilities to promote optimal neural and overall development (Parham & Mailloux, 2020).