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Small Victories

By Mary Lou Dickerson

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Review by Allison Martin

Small Victories - Conversations about Prematurity, Disability, Vision Loss, and Success is an amazing collection of the life stories of people who where born prematurely and are now adults. In this interesting compilation, adult "preemies" relate their experiences growing up - at home, in school and at work - providing insights on how being born prematurely has effected their lives. Compassionate and thoughtful, Mary Lou Dickerson provides interviews with twenty men and women from around the United States, who were born prematurely 30 - 50 years ago. The interviews cover a variety of situations - from a few people who felt little impact from their prematurity in their lives to the many who were born blind or with cerebral palsy or with other special needs. Many of the stories are heartbreaking and others are uplifting, but parents will find all of them to be intriguing reading. Of special interest to parents today, each person interviewed provides insights on their own life and offer advice to parents who are now raising children born prematurely. Interestingly, many of these people now hold jobs in the area of providing assistance to others with special needs.

Mary Lou Dickerson brings a unique insight to the subject as she was born premature herself (2 pounds 12 ounces) and also has a daughter who was also born prematurely. Now a representative in the Washington State legislature, Mary Lou Dickerson was inspired to collect the stories of adults born premature when a friend of hers gave birth to a very low birth weight premature baby. Mary Lou Dickerson was dismayed by the lack of information available on older preemies especially those children older than 5 or 6 years old,(see author interview). She discovered that, except for our website Premature Baby - Premature Child, there is very little information or even research on children born premature who are older than 5 or 6 years old. Mary Lou Dickerson's book Small Victories adds a whole new dimension for parents and professionals who are interested in the impacts of prematurity - a look at the lives of older preemies.

An insightful introduction by Dr. William Silverman, who is often referred to as the "Father of Neonatology," is helpful in setting the life stories in context of the history of premature care for today's parents. He explains the history of neonatal care and the patterns of prematurity related special needs over time. This is useful, because as you read the book you will notice that among adult preemies ROP impacts were more prevalent than today, while many neurological issues seem to have been less common. Mary Lou Dickerson's introductions to each person are also helpful, as she sheds light on the lessons from these life stories. In the end of the book, interviews with several parents of younger preemie children provide a look at issues and support (especially parent groups) for parents of young preemies.

In each interview, adult preemies provide advice to parents today, which many will find very useful. Several themes occur throughout the book of interest to preemie parents. One is that parents are advised to treat their children as normally as possible, encouraging them to participate in society and not to be overly protective. Over and over the refrain seems to be, "I was able to do this because my parents believed in me..". The importance of peers - for preemies and well as their parents - was another oft mentioned refrain; role models were very appreciated. Lastly, the importance of actively advocating for your child (or as older children, advocates for themselves) is demonstrated throughout the book.

I highly recommend this book to any interested in what may happen as children born premature grow up. It is a unique book that deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the life time effects of prematurity.

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