A new campaign is seeking to raise awareness of key motor development milestones for infants that, if missed, could mean spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) or other neuromuscular conditions. It’s been launched by Novartis Gene Therapies in collaboration with a diverse group of experts in the United Kingdom.
Called “Think 3 at 3 Months,” the campaign is separately tailored to parents and caregivers, allied health professionals, and healthcare providers.
Specifically, it seeks to make parents and caregivers, as well as doctors and healthcare professionals, aware of three motor developmental milestones — in head and body control and reaching for things — that babies are expected to reach by three months. The hope is that heightened awareness will result in more babies being diagnosed in a more timely manner with SMA or related disorders.
The effort opened with radio interviews and messaging aimed at parents and caregivers. It includes a video demonstrating movements typical of 3-month-old infants, a downloadable movement milestone timeline and milestone card, and a doctor visit conversation guide.
Joining Novartis in the campaign’s development were Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK, TreatSMA, Muscular Dystrophy UK, Newcastle University, the Royal College of Paediactrics and Child Health, the British Paediatric Neurology Association, and the Institute of Health Visiting.
SMA is characterized by progressive muscle weakness caused by the loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and the part of the brain connected to the spinal cord. These neurons control voluntary muscle movements, including those of the arms, legs, chest, face, throat, and tongue. The loss of motor neurons leads to muscle weakness and atrophy. Fundamental activities using muscles — breathing, swallowing, controlling head movement, sitting up, and walking — can be affected.
Tracking a baby’s movements, also known as motor developmental milestones, in the first few months of life is important in making sure the infant is developing normally. The campaign seeks to underscore that while children develop at different rates, the child’s physician should be notified if parents or caregivers have concerns.
Essentially, a doctor should be contacted if, by the age of 3 months, a baby cannot raise his or her head when having “tummy time” (laying on the stomach), has “floppy” arms and legs when awake, or is not actively reaching for things.
In addition to briefly being able to lift their heads, 1-month-old babies should be able to move their hands to their face and mouth. And when they’re startled, such as by a loud noise, they should reflexively throw out their arms or spread their fingers.
At 2 months old, normally developing babies can move and wriggle their arms and legs while on their back — movements that become smoother as development continues. They also can, when on their stomachs, lift their head and move it from side to side. In addition, they can briefly hold a toy placed in their hands.
Three-month-old babies should be beginning to reach for toys, and can deliberately grasp and hold items. When on their stomach, they also should be able to lift their head and chest. And when on their back, they are expected to be able to wave their arms and kick their legs.
According to the campaign’s webpage, if a child is not developing on the expected timeline, “it could simply mean that they are late in the normal age range for reaching these movement milestones. However, in some rare cases, delays in reaching such milestones could be down to other causes.”
SMA is thought to affect one in every 6,000 to 10,000 babies globally.
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