Bobbi Pineda and students in the NICU

Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory

General Laboratory Description

Dr. Bobbi Pineda directs the Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory, which seeks to better understand the effects of the environment, medical conditions and interventions on brain structure and functional outcome of the developing infant. Most of the current work involves premature infants born prior to 32 weeks gestation (two months early). Neurobehavioral examinations and feeding evaluations are important components of measuring early function, and are therefore integral in the NICU the lab. Measuring long-term outcomes as well as maternal, social, environmental, and medical factors, are also important parts of the lab’s work.

General Description of Student Activities

Students will learn about the NICU environment and early premature infant development, as well as team dynamics, and how to interact in the NICU setting. After acclimating to the NICU environment and understanding the complexities of interacting with this fragile population, students may have the opportunity to participate in providing sensory interventions to preterm infants and/or learn neurobehavioral assessments based on current projects that are underway.

Students support the activities of the NICU lab with a team-based approach, which can include: obtaining informed consents, educating nurses, doing neurobehavioral assessments with supervision, collecting NICU language and sound measurements, and collecting medical record data. Students actively engage in the research process from start to finish under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Pineda. This lab offers experience in infant assessment, clinical research, functioning as part of a team, teaching, leadership, presenting at state and national conferences, and publishing.

Examples of Projects

  • Sensory processing disorder in preterm infants during early childhood and relationships to early neurobehavior
  • Early therapy services following NICU discharge
  • The OT as an interdisciplinary team member in the NICU: Patterns of therapy usage in a level IV NICU
  • The development of sucking skills in the preterm infant in the NICU

Lab Created Assessments 

  • The Neonatal Eating Outcome Assessment tool is a comprehensive, standardized assessment that can be used from the time that feeding is initiated throughout the neonatal period to delineate alterations in the infant's feeding trajectory. It was created to evaluate the construct of feeding/eating for bottle-fed and breastfed premature infants in the NICU. To learn more about the Neonatal Eating Outcome Assessment and to purchase click HERE

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  • The SENSE (Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory Experiences) Program is a comprehensive approach to ensuring multi-modal positive sensory exposures across hospitalization for high-risk infants in the NICU. The SENSE Program provides education to engage families in providing developmentally appropriate positive sensory exposures to optimize outcomes for their infant(s). The sensory interventions are designed to be provided by parents, but the medical team and/or volunteers can also be engaged to ensure the sensory needs of each infant are met. To learn more about the SENSE Program and to purchase click HERE.

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Ranked as the Number One OT Program in the Nation

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Get Started

We welcome inquiries from prospective students, potential collaborators, community partners, alumni and others who want to connect with us. Please complete the form below to begin the conversation.

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Schedule a Visit

Current, future and accepted applicants are encouraged to visit. We also welcome people who are exploring career options and considering occupational therapy. Dr. Kathy Kniepmann, one of our faculty members, opens our visit sessions with an informal presentation and discussion, followed by a tour that’s led by one of our current occupational therapy students.

Upcoming visit sessions*:

*At least two to three visit sessions are scheduled every month. All times are Central Standard Time (CST). Click here for more info.

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Call Dr. Kniepmann at (314) 286-1610
or Robin Hattori at (314) 286-1653