Children with NF1 can experience a range of developmental delays, including problems with gross motor skills and trouble learning how to appropriately socialize. A recent study showed that these delays can affect the development of children with NF1 as young as the age of three. Studies like this, and those currently taking place at the Washington University NF Center, highlight the need for early intervention.
Beat NF is a collaborative music therapy program co-developed by the Washington University NF Center, Jazz St. Louis and the Maryville Music Therapy Department. The goal of the program is to help toddlers with NF1 strengthen gross motor skills, improve social skills, and focus their attention through jazz music. After the completion of the first session, it has become clear that positive effects were emerging.
All toddlers who attended Beat NF were screened by Washington University NF Center physical therapist Courtney Dunn, PT DPT, for motor skills on the first and last days of the event. “Every child had a better motor screen after the final event and could preform skills they were unable to preform during the first screen,” said Dunn. Some of those skills included the ability to leap, catch a ball and walk sideways.
One child, Sophia age 4, even showed growth in unexpected areas. “Her speech therapist and family members were amazed when they noticed a sudden change in her speech,” said Dori, Sophia’s mother, “The only change in what we were doing was having Sophia attend Beat NF and listen to the Beat NF music on days in between sessions.”
Sophia, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, became a leader during Beat NF sessions, encouraging her peers to follow the movements and sing along. “I think being with other children her age was definitely the highlight for Sophia. The chance to experience a group dynamic was huge for her,” said Dori.
The Washington University NF Center and our collaborators are thrilled with the positive outcomes from our first session of Beat NF. Beat NF plans to launch new sessions in May 2014 so stay tuned for details!