Our birth to three program in SC is called BabyNet, and both my boys went through it. We received free evals and services from a nutritionist, PT, OT and speech. My youngest "automatically qualified" for the program due to his very low birthweight (I think the cutoff is any baby under 1000 grams). But my oldest was referred by our high-risk pediatrician....we only see her maybe 4 times a year, and I think our regular ped could have done the referral too.
Anyway, the original question about cognitive disabilities:
Andrew (born at 29 weeks, 2 lb. 15 oz., now age 4) has been bounced around a lot in terms of what kind of diagnosis he will be given. He didn't begin really talking (more than just a word or two) until age 2 1/2, and early on was showing some of the warning signs that point to autism. He was thoroughly tested, and fell just short of meeting the autism criteria. The high-risk ped started out by saying he has PDD--pervasive developmental disorder, which is a milder relative of autism. It affects speech development, and social interaction. Kind of hard to explain, I don't even fully understand it myself. After subsequent tests and Andrew began making such great progress, the docs started even backing away from a PDD diagnosis, and began saying "expressive speech delay" or other such labels.
Today Andrew is in regular K4 preschool, and receives both private and school-district based speech services. He is extremely bright (can I brag?[:)])....he can count to 100, sight-reads more than 30 words, knows all letters and their sounds, knows his own home phone number and address, etc. Now it is mostly about the "abstract" with him: if something is concrete and can be memorized, he can do it. If it involves inference, drawing conclusions, interpreting social cues, it's harder for him. We don't know what additional help he will need when he enters school--he has come so far and surprised all of the experts up until now.
Certainly the statistics are scary, but I still consider my boys as success stories despite the difficulties. Hard as it is to do, try not to worry too much until there's reason to....if there ever IS a reason too. We all hope that Meredith will ace the evals and won't ever show a need for special services, etc.