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Music-Motor Therapy Program Improving the Lives of Toddlers with NF1


Working on motor skills during a Spring Beat NF class with St. Louis Children’s Hospital Physical Therapist, Courtney Dunn, PT, DPT.

The Washington University NF Center and Jazz St. Louis recently wrapped up another successful Beat NF session. This unique music-motor therapy program utilizes jazz music and motor therapy to help the NF1 preschool population overcome developmental delays commonly seen in this genetic condition. Earlier this summer, twelve toddlers with NF1 attended weekly classes in St. Louis’ Grand Center at The Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz. To increase jazz music knowledge and awareness, local jazz musicians played live music throughout each 75-minute class while the children engaged in a variety of gross and fine motor movement activities.
After 5 weeks of attending class and working on motor skills at home through weekly homework assignments, many parents reported a greater appreciation for jazz music and improvements in their child’s jumping and balancing skills. Rae Gilliam, mother to Caroline (a Beat NF program participant), shared with us her journey from receiving Caroline’s diagnosis to attending Beat NF, where she and Caroline found comfort in a supportive environment geared toward growth.

Rae Gilliam with daughter Caroline at Beat NF.

“I will never forget the comfort I received during our first visit to the NF Clinic when Dr. Gutmann told me that the Washington University NF Center would adopt our family as we learned of our daughter’s diagnosis. That statement was projected by every staff member’s approach during the rest of our visit. I was nervous, but so grateful to be invited to the Beat NF jazz music-motor therapy program. The whole process of filling out extensive medical history, working through the personal evaluation, and receiving the initial diagnosis can be overwhelming. Not only did our interaction with the Beat NF staff build morale and help comfort our fears of the unknown, there was overwhelming support from fellow families facing similar genetic delays. As a parent, you want the best for your child. At Beat NF, I find solace in seeing that others do, too.
During a typical Beat NF class, our daughter gets the full gamete of developmental support. Jazz music education, physical therapy, social skill development and speech therapy all woven together during the 75 minute class. Songs are built upon and added weekly, so children can master the lyrics and motor movements. While we enjoy jazz, our affection for the music therapy has incited a cross-sectional appreciation for the benefits of music-based physical therapy. We wish we could attend sessions year round!”
Recognizing the significant impact of this program on the NF community, KMOV Journalist, Kelly Davis, visited our first class and highlighted the Beat NF program on her morning news segment on channel 4.
Interested in joining us for the fall Beat NF session? Reserve your child’s spot today by emailing the program coordinator, Kirsten Brouillet.