Caregiver catalyst grants

Their Parents' Voices

Even when Abigail Johnson couldn’t be with her twins in the NICU, they could hear the sound of her voice. | Photo: Yu Kwan Lee

Listen to Abigail Johnson read an excerpt from Made for Me by Zack Bush to her twins.

The Need

Twins Danika and Dakota Johnson were born prematurely and spent weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital. “Traveling back and forth to the hospital is hard, and being there all the time isn’t reasonable,” says their mom, Abigail Johnson. “You have this fear: Are they going to bond with me the same way if I’m not always there with them?”

The Facts

The auditory cortex develops in the third trimester of pregnancy. It’s most responsive during the first few weeks after a baby is born—prime time for fostering attachment through sound.

The Idea

Child Life Specialist Jessica Timms, MS, CCLS, applied for a Caregiver Catalyst Grant of $14,000 to create a new program to record parents reading and singing and then play the audio for babies throughout their time in the NICU. “This allows parents and babies to communicate without the parents necessarily being here,” Timms says.

The Impact

“I actually found out I received the funding on the day before I was leaving for Disney World,” Timms says. “It was a really good vacation knowing that I was coming back to a lot of important work.”

“It’s really awesome that people would donate to this,” Johnson says. “For a NICU mom, there are a lot of other expenses. So to have this program available without having to pay for it is a blessing.”

Abigail Johnson’s twins could hear her reading to them in the NICU even when she couldn’t be there in person. Learn how the Caregiver Catalyst Grant-funded “First Voices” program made it possible.