High-Risk Infant Follow-Up Program

Some babies may require close medical attention.

Babies who spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may be at risk for neurological problems and developmental delays due to preterm birth or other conditions during the newborn period. We want to identify these problems early and help families get expert care that will help maximize their baby’s developmental potential.

UC San Diego Health's NICU Follow-Up and Early Development Clinic evaluates the growth and development of such infants and young children and customizes treatment to suit each patient's needs. 

Helping Children Reach Their Potential

We work with families, health care providers, educators and other agencies to help every child reach their maximum potential.

Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent or reduce long-term problems associated with prematurity and serious newborn illnesses, or address concerns related to not meeting appropriate developmental milestones (such as cognition, fine and gross motor skills, and speech and language).

Is High-Risk Infant Follow-Up Right for My Child?

Our experts provide special exams for infants and toddlers whose condition puts them at increased risk for neurological problems or developmental delays. Our services are for children who have been cared for in our NICU or referred from other NICUs in San Diego and Imperial counties.

Candidates for referral to our NICU Follow-Up and Early Development Clinic include those who:

  • Are born premature (less than 34 weeks of gestation)
  • Have a birth weight less than or equal to 1,500 grams
  • Had intra-uterine exposure to alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, or certain prescription medications known to have potential risks (such as psychotropic and anti-seizure medications)
  • Were exposed to any agent that might cause a congenital disability
  • Were exposed to the Zika virus
  • Have congenital anomalies or genetic disorders that might affect developmental outcomes
  • Failed to thrive
  • Have not met developmental milestones (speech and language, motor skills, cognitive skills, social skills)
  • Are in a high-risk social situation (parent with a developmental disability, teen parent, current or history of foster care placement, domestic violence)

How Referrals Work

A provider or parent/caregiver can refer a child if they have a concern regarding the child's development.

Neonatologists, pediatricians, specialists, or other community providers (Early Start, therapists, public health nurses, etc.) can submit a referral for any child whose condition may increase their risk for neurological problems or developmental delays.

What to Expect At Your Visit

Children are usually seen at our clinic every six months for their first two to three years. Parents will have ample time to ask questions at each visit.

At each two-hour visit, a pediatric nurse practitioner or pediatrician will give your child a physical exam, neurological exam and a developmental assessment. These evaluations, which are in addition to routine pediatric care with the primary care provider, include:

  • Standardized tests to evaluate your child's development
  • Observation of how your child plays with toys and interacts
  • Assessment of your child’s motor skills, mental skills and language development
  • Examination of your child’s muscle strength and reflexes

Coordinated Care

Rely on us to discuss your child's evaluation results with you during your appointment. We may send these results to your child’s primary care provider / pediatrician and other community service providers on your child’s care team, as needed.

We ensure that your child receives any needed services to help them achieve their maximum potential. This may include referrals or recommendations for physical, occupational and speech therapy, psychological testing services, nursing care, parenting education, California's Early Start program or other services.

Insurance Coverage

Many insurance plans cover the cost of this appointment but check with your health plan to make sure. We work with many insurance plans and are members of several medical groups.