Newswise — Lisa Gracey shares a puppet of an orange bear with 11-month-old son Duke, singing ‘Old MacDonald had a farm,’ encouraging him to be engaged in his music therapy class. He grabs at the soft material and bounces in excitement. Born premature at 29 weeks and weighing 2 pounds, 13 ounces, Gracey has worked with the help of Vanderbilt’s Neonatal Intensive Care Follow-up Clinic to ensure Duke is on the right path to grow and reach milestones. A new Vanderbilt developmental music therapy class for babies ages 6 months to 24 months is serving as a valuable tool to help infants like Duke reach their full potential. The six-week class — called Baby Vibes — incorporates music, movement, reading and language to enrich infants’ communication abilities and gross/fine motor skills as well as social interaction. Baby Vibes, which successfully piloted with babies who had graduated from the NICU, will open to the public in August and will be offered once a week for 45 minutes at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks. Registration is required. Nathalie Maitre, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt NICU Follow-up Clinic, said the initial idea for the class was to offer another resource for NICU families in their journey after they leave the hospital. “Having a baby in the NICU is difficult for families, as mother and infant are suddenly separated in an unexpected and often traumatic manner. This separation, combined with the difficulties of functioning in an intensive care environment, often results in emotional problems for parents and developmental ones for babies,” Maitre said. “Our hope is that development classes taught through music can support the parent-infant bonding experience, for our NICU babies and for our Nashville families as well.” Music therapist Ellyn Hamm leads the class, strumming on her guitar singing catchy tunes, using appealing props and a warm, welcoming smile. Through music and play activities parents learn how to help their babies grow. “We saw this class as a way for the Follow-up Clinic to provide more services, for infants to interact with their parents and as a way for the clinic to reach out to the community,” said Hamm, M.M., MT-BC.“With each session, I can see a lot of engagement and more parent interaction developing. We document their development and progress and can see what each infant is doing and not doing. And we work with the parents to see how they can incorporate these tools at home.” From mini maracas to sheer scarves to colorful rain sticks, every sight, sound and touch evokes a sense for these tiny pupils. Hamm also uses a lot of sign language since studies show infants can sign before they verbalize. Duke’s mother sings the songs and uses the skillsets learned in the class when they are at home. “We’re really excited about this class. It’s the best thing to help these young infants with their communication skills,” Lisa Gracey said. “I believe music is important at any age, and it is a lot of fun to see him get excited about it. He perks up when he hears the repetition of the songs. We feel so blessed to be in a city that has a Vanderbilt. It is such a good thing to have an awesome hospital in our backyard.” The Baby Vibes program is free to families whose babies were patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Families whose babies were not treated in the NICU pay $30 per six-week session. The class will accept up to 12 infants per six-week session for each age group. The sessions are divided into three groups: Kittens – infants ages 6 month to 12 months, from 9 - 9:45 a.m.; Cubs – infants ages 12 months to 18 months, from 10 - 10:45 a.m.; and Lions – infants ages 18 months to 24 months, from 11 - 11:45 a.m. For more information about registering for a Baby Vibes class, contact Hamm at [email protected] or 936-1648 or Heidi Edwards at 936-5933.More information is also available online at http://www.childrenshospital.vanderbilt.org/babyvibes.