Children with Down syndrome face certain challenges, both physically and intellectually. However, they can lead fulfilling lives, have a routine, and receive any care they need while living at home and interacting in their community. Often, a child with Down syndrome requires multidisciplinary treatment from a number of health professionals. These may include special education teachers, speech therapists, physical therapists, and social workers. Each of these healthcare professionals should provide their patients with stimulation and encouragement as they progress towards their specific treatment milestones.
Children with Down syndrome want to do all the things that any other baby can do, and physical therapy can help them achieve it. Physical therapy is an important part of a Down syndrome patient’s treatment used in early intervention and throughout their life to promote proper development and independence. The reason physical therapy is important for youngsters with Down syndrome is because they are delayed in their infant milestones, particularly, they need help building their gross motor skills, increasing muscle strength, and working on proper posture and balance. Babies can learn how to turn over, crawl, and reach for objects, and at the same time, learn about the world around them.
The goal of physical therapy for the child with Down syndrome is not to accelerate their rate of development, contrary to popular belief. Rather, it is used to facilitate their development of optimal movement patterns. Down syndrome patients may also need to learn how to compensate for physical challenges common to these individuals, such as low muscle tone, medically called hypotonia. For instance, the physical therapist may help the child patient on how to walk efficiently so they don’t experience foot pain.
A Down syndrome patient’s physical therapist will take their patient’s personality, thinking, behavior, and reactions into account when helping them learn gross motor skills. Parents can have an active role in this regard, as they help their child at home, practicing what they’ve learned in physical therapy sessions. For instance, to help teach a child to crawl, a parent may want to place the child on their belly and try to get him or her to crawl to get a favorite toy. Positive reinforcement, patience, and encouragement is paramount to success. Parents should only practice the skills their child is ready to learn, so they don’t get discouraged. Likewise, they should practice when the child has the mental and physical energy to concentrate on their new skills.
Physical therapy shouldn’t be a burden for Down syndrome patients and/or their parents, but rather an encouraging atmosphere in which they are taught how to be as independent as possible. Parents should follow the physical therapist’s lead and make sure their child is eager to learn, rather than become discouraged and upset at their lack of progress.
Does your child have Down syndrome? Our physical therapists at ProFysio can help. Contact us today at (732) 812-5200 to book your appointment.