25,000 children are born preterm in Australia each year. ReadyStepGrow is a non-profit organisation providing therapeutic programs to families of children born preterm from nursery discharge to school commencement.
of parents of babies born preterm ( <32 weeks) struggle with depression and anxiety 1
of preterm children are born ( <32 weeks) and have increased risk of developmental and school-related problems2
of preterm children ( <32 weeks) develop intellectual, educational and/or behavioural problems3
of babies born ( <30 weeks) have oromotor difficulties indicating surveillance and support transitioning to solids 4
preterm children ( <32 weeks) showed vulnerabilities in multiple domains of school readiness5
Because of the multifaceted risk factors associated with prematurity and evidence that social and environmental factors play a major role in outcomes, ReadyStepGrow (RSG) has developed a comprehensive program that focuses both on parent well-being and child development.
Delivered by a team of therapists, all of whom specialise in development of preterm children with expertise as follows:
- Paediatric Dietician (nutrition and health promotion)
- Speech Pathologist (early communication and feeding development)
- Occupational Therapist (emotional regulation and fine-motor development)
- Early Years Educator (school readiness and working memory intervention)
The program incorporates a broad range of evidenced-based practises to empower parents by providing:
- Education & activities to assist areas of known neurodevelopmental risk
- Reinforcement of positive influence of parenting & parent well-being on child outcomes
- Attracting the friendly and enthusiastic multidisciplinary team has been crucial to the program's success
- Each program builds upon the foundations set in earlier sessions
- Tiny Premmies 0 - 6m+ | Baby Prems 6 - 18m+ | Tiny Toddlers 16 - 24m+
- Toddlers 2y - 3y+ | Pre-Kindy 3 - 4y+
- Program costs subsidised by more than 75% thanks to generous donors
- Medicare rebates may apply and families encouraged to talk with their GP
Program participation has steadily increased since 2013. Retention of families in the program is over 85%. Parent feedback shows:
Sia has been in the RSG program for the last 4 years.
- Born at 30 weeks weighing 1276 grams
- Head ultrasound at 32 weeks showed grade 3 bilateral IVHs
- One septic episode
- Discharge at 8 weeks
- 3 weeks later readmitted to ICU with bacterial meningitis
- MRI showed decreased white matter
- Sia was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 6 months
Andrea’s own words follow
“My mission was to do everything I could to give Sia the best possible outcome. Knowledge became my power and that’s when I came across RSG - it was like everything I dreamed of right before my eyes."
- Healed emotional wounds by learning strategies to deal with stress and anxiety.
- Made me feel more confident when parenting a prem.
- Allowed Sia, who had terrible separation anxiety, to slowly gain confidence.
Today, all Sia's therapists agree
- Her brain has created new pathways and found new ways to do things.
- Her legs are only very mildly affected.
- She has perfect hearing, eye sight and symmetry in her hands
We can only put this down to early intervention, RSG and one amazing brain. I feel so privileged that we have been involved with such a ground breaking program for which we will be eternally grateful.” Andrea Chand
ReadyStepGrow increases parent confidence and improves parent well-being
Separation anxiety is reduced in children attending the program
Next phase is to extend this unique program beyond metropolitan Melbourne
- Pace, C, 2016. Evolution of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Parents of Very Preterm Infants During the Newborn Period. JAMA Pediatrics, 170/9, 863-870
- Potijk, M, 2012. Higher rates of behavioural and emotional problems at preschool age in children born moderately preterm. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 97, 112-117.
- Colditz, P, 2015. Prem Baby Triple P: a randomised controlled trial of enhanced parenting capacity to improve developmental outcomes in preterm infants. BMC Pediatrics, 15
- Sanchez, K, 2016. Oromotor Feeding in Children Born Before 30 Weeks' Gestation and Term-Born Peers at 12 Months' Corrected Age . The Journal of Pediatrics, (early online)
- Roberts, G, 2011. High Rates of School Readiness Difficulties at 5 Years of Age in Very Preterm Infants Compared with Term Controls. Journal Developmental Behavioural Pediatrics 32:117–124