Premature birth

When a baby is born at less than 37 weeks of gestation (a baby born at 36 weeks and 6 days is officially "premature")

Adjusted Age

When checking your child's developmental milestones, always adjust for the number of weeks or months your child was born early. A 32-week gestational age baby at 12 months chronological age, will be 10 months adjusted age.


An umbrella term for a combination of problems connected with social communication, resistance to change, restricted interests and activities, repetitive behaviours or over- or under-sensory sensitivities

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Problems with concentrating and attending to task, with or without a need to be constantly moving and "on-the-go"

Brain Plasticity

The brains of little children become what the child does. Every experience of the baby/child forms new connections, and the billions of connections become that child's cognitive, sensory, motor and emotional repertoire. If experiences are missing, the nerves that are ready to take on that skill will die off - literally "use it or lose it". We can use brain plasticity in a targeted way to ensure that important skills are laid down.

Cognition /cognitive

The ability to think. This includes all the mental activities and processes involved in thinking, such as memory, concentrating (attention) and understanding sensory input. Everything from doing a puzzle to understanding that barking means that a dog is nearby are cognitive.

Developmental Assessment

An assessment, usually with young children, using toys, pictures and other prompts that are used to observe and assess all areas of development. These include physical ability, fine and gross motor abilities,  receptive and expressive communication, problem solving.

Developmental Disorder

When skills that should be developing at certain ages and not present.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

One of several classification systems for conditions that are diagnosed based on mood, thoughts or behaviours. Disorders of childhood include Pervasive Developmental Disorder (including autism), ADHD, Attachment Disorder, and several behavioural disorders

Developmental Plan

A plan that is developed to use a child's strengths while at the same time giving practice in areas of development that are absent or lagging behind what would be expected of children of that age

Expressive Communication

The way we convey meaning to others using words, gestures, movements, pictures or text. Expressive communication usually develops after Receptive Communication

Executive Functions (Fundamental skills)

Executive functions are a group of cognitive skills located in the frontal lobes of the brain. They are considered the "highest" parts of our thinking processes and include anticipation, goal selection, planning, organizing, initiating an activity, elf-regulation, mental flexibility, deploying attention and using feedback. We use EFs hundreds of times every day. A serious knock to the front of the head can cause EF problems. Prematurely-born children also often have EF problems, especially when asked to hold information in mind (working memory) and in mental flexibility. The card game UNO is an excellent way for children to practice working memory and mental flexibility. 

Fine Motor Skills (a fundamental skill)

The skills (usually of the hands) that are used to manipulate small objects in a precise way (e.g. writing). Fine Motor Skills require fundamental skills of normal sensation (e.g. the feel of a crayon), muscle strength (the ability to hold a crayon firmly) and coordination (the ability to press hard enough and make the crayon do what the child's has in mind)

Fundamental Skills

This is a term used for this webpage only and refers to the many subskills (sub-components or building blocks of  cognitive skills) that develop in the early years that then underpin more complex learning. For example, a child learning to read must have shape recognition, word recognition (verbal language), knowledge and working memory skills. These sub-skills start to be laid down in the brain in ever-increasing complexity from birth. Most parents cannot identify gaps in these skills in their pre-school children. Yet if gaps are present in the pre-schooler, the child will subsequently have trouble reading, which only becomes obvious when the child goes to school. At Raising Premmies we teach proactive parents how to interact with their little children in ways that target fundamental abilities (and make the brain become what the brain does).

Gross Motor Skills (a fundamental skill)

These skills are those using large muscles, such as for walking, running, hopping, climbing stairs. The fundamental skills needed are normal sensation, muscle strength and a knowledge of where the limbs are in space. Core strength is one of the gross motor skills sometimes lacking in premmies. This can make children look restless, inattentive and generally disengaged, because their body finds it difficult to stay sitting/upright for any length of time.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

The score received after completing an intelligence test. Most tests are normed to have a mean (average) of 100 and the majority of the population score between 85 and 115.


Activities designed to improve a skill. Interventions therapies can be physical, educational, developmental, behavioural, and sometimes we change the environment to help the child. At Raising Premmies we intervene to strengthen fundamental skills found to be lacking in premmies.

Joint (Shared) Attention (a fundamental skill)

This is the ability to share attention on some object with another person. We normally see the development of joint attention when a child starts to point, indicating that some other person should follow his point to the object of interest (like a bird in a tree). Joint attention is a form of communication, it is often lacking in children with autism, and is late-developing in premmies.

Mental Flexibility (a fundamental skill, part of the group of executive functions)

You may have noticed that your child persists with a conversation topic that has passed. Or they may have difficulty shifting from one activity to another, or understanding that a rule only applies in certain circumstances. Being able to mentally (and emotionally) shift from one activity to another, or one rule to another is called mental flexibility. The card game UNO is a good way for children to practice mental flexibility (the rules change - e.g. from colour to numbers).

Mental Health (Infant)

Infant mental health describes healthy social and emotional development in children between birth and 3 years of age. This is a growing field of research and practice. It is inextricably connected to secure attachment relationships with carers.

Mental Health (perinatal)

Perinatal and infant mental health can be described as the emotional and psychological wellbeing of women, their infants, partners and family, including the impact on the parent-infant relationship, commencing from preconception through pregnancy and up to 36 months postpartum.

Mental Health (maternal)

Worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In mothers of prematurely-born babies, the incidence is much higher. Affected mothers often cannot function properly. As a result, the children’s growth and development may be negatively affected as well. Maternal mental health disorders are treatable.


Used widely in psychological interventions, mindfulness involves helping people stay in the present moment, inside the sensations of their own body.


Neurodevelopmental assessments infer brain processes from behavioural tests. Neurodevelopmental interventions aim to change brain structures using behavioural practice. There is much evidence that both the architecture and the chemical processes of the brain can be changed using behavioural and cognitive practice.


A subspecialty of psychology that connects behaviours (such as memory, problem-solving, attention, concentration and planning) with the neurological (brain) areas that control them. Neuropsychological assessments aim to pinpoint cognitive gaps and neuropsychological interventions aim to strengthen the fundamental skills that are causing problems

Peak Development

Our biology at birth (e.g. genetics, insults to our brain), is not our destiny.The brain becomes what the brain does, and this is called "brain plasticity". The brain is most open to change during the first 3-5 years of life. This is the time when we can provide the very best developmental experiences for our children that will lay the foundations for their future. At every age afterwards, brain connections will build on those early basic (ability) connections. Every baby has a range or future abilities open to them. When the environment provides many different kinds of stimulation, the connections in the brain proliferate. There are billions of neurons in the brain, and each one can have thousands of connections. At Raising Premmies we aim to make as many connections as possible in the early years to achieve peak development for each child. This is important for every child, but even more important for premmies who may have had mild or more severe "insults" during their early months in hospital. At this early age, if one brain region is compromised and not able to make normal connections, other areas will take over, but only if the environment of the child stimulates and demands those abilities to be present (the brain becomes what the brain does).

Processing Speed (a fundamental skill)

Processing speed refers to how quickly a child can come up with an answer or work out a problem. If a child is asked "How many ears do you have" he or she have to think about what the word "ear" means, where it is on their body, they may know the answer or may have to use their hands to count. All of this requires using hundreds of connections all over the brain, which work at lightening speed. However, if one bit of the puzzle is not strongly connected, the brain may have to find another way to find the answer. This makes the Speed of Processing slower. This is why early home "enrichment" is so very important - every experience forms more connections, which are then used later to solve problems. When there are gaps, the child's brain has to work harder and longer.

Receptive Communication

Understanding what someone else is telling us. It can be in words, gestures, movements, images or text. Little children usually have strong receptive communication well before they can speak.

Sensory Processing (a fundamental skill)

Some children have over-sensitivity, under-sensitivity or distorted sensory processing. Their eyes, ears, skin just don't give consistent or accurate sensory information to the brain. Many children with autism have sensory processing difficulties and it is emerging as being a difficulty with many premmies.

Theory of Mind (a fundamental skill)

This is a cognitive skill that develops between 3 and 5 years, and indicates that children understand that you cannot read their mind (and also that they cannot always know what is in their parent's mind).  The development of Theory of Mind seems to coincide with little children starting to tell lies. Example: Mother: James did you eat the last biscuit? James: No. I don't think so. I might have. Yes I did. Three-year-old James started with a lie,  but was not yet sure whether his mother could read his mind. Theory of Mind is an important cognitive skill - it would be terrible if we believed our thoughts were obvious to everyone else. It also helps us understand what others cannot know. Leaning to tell the truth is a social skill, not a cognitive one.

Vestibular System

This is in the ear, processes sensory information and is important for balance.

Visuospatial Skills (a fundamental skill)

The ability to perceive visual objects and the spatial relationships among them. When testing IQ, visuospatial relationships are one important component.

Working Memory (a fundamental skill, part of the group of executive functions)

Someone gives us directions.."Go down to the next corner, turn left, walk two blocks and it is one right hand side..,.You can't miss it". If you have problems with working memory you probably will miss it. Working memory is being able to hold information in mind that is no longer  physically present and use that information to complete a task and guide future actions.  It is a critical part of goal-directed behaviourIt is a fundamental function of our brain and we use it many times every day.