Most premature babies go on to have typical development, just like babies born full-term. The earlier that premature babies are born, the more likely it is that they have some difficulties with their development. Some children who were born premature have difficulty with their thinking and learning, or problems with their physical, social or emotional development.  

Adjusted or Corrected Age – what is it? 

Adjusted Age, or Corrected Age is your baby’s chronological age minus the number of weeks or months they were born early. There is a shift in professionals using the term adjusted rather than corrected to describe a baby’s chronological age, as corrected has negative connotations, and sounds like something that needs to be ‘fixed’. This shift has been slower here in Australia. We would really like to empower all parents to talk about their child in terms of their adjusted age when communicating with health professionals. 

For example, if a six-month-old baby was born one month early, they would have an adjusted age of five months. 

Adjusted age can be helpful if you’re trying to work out whether your premature baby’s development is tracking typically. For example, if someone notices that your child is six months old but not sitting up yet, you could explain that they were born three months early. If you look at their adjusted age, she’s only three months old and she’s doing everything a three-month-old usually does. 

Adjusted age is especially relevant during your child’s early years because it might explain things that look like lags in development. Most health professionals stop calculating/referring to adjusted age when you child turns two years of age.  

Concerns about your baby’s development? 

When tracking your baby’s development, it’s important to compare their progress to milestones and checklists that match their adjusted age (not their chronological age). It is also important to remember that all babies develop at different rates, regardless of prematurity. However, if there are areas of your baby’s development, for example their motor skills, speech and language skills or social engagement that you’re concerned about, the best place to start it talking with your child’s paediatrician or GP, who can then refer you to the relevant health professionals. If your child is assessed for any development delays, the results can be scored at both their adjusted and chronological ages. 

A note on starting school and adjusted 

When children start school, this is based on their chronological age requirements. In most Australian states, children are expected to start school at the beginning of the year they turn six years old. But a few months in age can make a difference to what a child can do and what they’re expected to do. Depending on individual circumstances, some parents of children born premature apply to delay school for a year, if their child’s adjusted age is below school entry age. This can give them extra time to catch up in growth and develop the skills needed for school.  

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