Doctor Uses 'Baby Shark' to Teach Toddler With Spina Bifida How to Walk

Harper Comparin
ABC Action News

It seems parents of little ones can't go anywhere without hearing the peppy beat of "Baby Shark" blasting through the air (or bopping nonstop stuck in their head). But doctors of one little girl in St. Petersburg, Florida, put the power of that catchy tune to good use by turning it into a tool to help 2-year-old Harper Comparin, who suffers from spina bifida, learn how to walk.

  • At first, Harper wasn't too trusting of her doctor's creative treatment methods.

    Harper was born with the life-altering disease, which the Mayo Clinic described as "a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don't form properly." Spina bifida falls under a broader category of neural tube defects and occurs when the "embryonic structure that eventually develops into the baby's brain and spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them" fails to close properly. Depending on the severity of the defect, it can significantly impact a child's ability to move. 

    That is only part of the reason why Harper was gun-shy about learning how to walk. According to ABC Action News, the toddler had already been through several surgeries and hospital visits, which left her guarded and scared to try something new.

    “That was a big barrier we really had to cross at first, to regain her trust,” said Harper's rehabilitation doctor Michelle Schultz at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

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  • This is why the doctor racked her brain to think of a creative way to make her work with Harper fun. Enter Baby Shark.

    Schultz cleverly took the hit song that both babies and toddlers alike seem obsessed with and started instructing Harper to walk in time with the beat. Schultz would set up Harper on a tiny treadmill in her office, and the two would sing the catchy song together, encouraging Harper to walk to the beat.

    “I like the tune of that song,” the doctor said. “I use it like a metronome. I want her to walk to that beat. Doo doo doo! Pick up her speed, walk faster.”

    Schultz said she believes the method worked because she was willing to get a little creative, and she noted that when working with kids it's important to her to tailer her approach to each child.

  • The effect that Harper's success has had on her life has expanded to other areas as well.

    Aside from her treadmill training, Harper and Schultz pretend to go "grocery shopping" together, they play catch, and they even take time to let Harper horse around with her brother Kellen. 

    Overall, the treatment has impacted more than Harper's physical movement -- she now smiles more and is more talkative.

     “It helped her regain her abilities,” her doctor said. 

    Her parents, Fred and Erica Comparin, also marvel at the incredible change they've seen in their daughter.

    “When I first saw her taking five, six, seven steps across the room, I was like ‘Are you serious?’” said her father, Fred. “She’ll now just walk up to total strangers and just say, ‘Hi!’”

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