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Down Syndrome

Speech and Occupational Therapy are Important for Children with Down Syndrome

According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), one in 691 babies are born with Down syndrome each year in the United States. This syndrome is the most common genetic condition. Though children with Down syndrome have cognitive delays, the range of intellectual disability is typically mild to moderate.

As with many children with developmental delays, receptive understanding and the desire to communicate develops before the expressive ability to articulate sounds and words intelligibly for this population. There is typically a delay in expressive language development, which includes putting words together and use of correct syntax (grammar).

Language development is adversely impacted when a child has a history of ear infections (otitis media) since fluid accumulation behind the ear drum decreases the ability to hear. A child must hear words and sounds in order to imitate and attach meaning to sound. Children with Down syndrome are more susceptible to otitis media due to short, narrow ear canals. These children also have low or weak muscle tone (Hypotonia) which can also impact intelligibility and the ability to develop play and self-help skills.

Speech Therapy

Children with Down syndrome can make significant progress with communication and really benefit from the intervention of a qualified speech therapist. A total communication approach, which combines sign, visuals (such as photos and printed words), tactiles (such as a tapping board for syllable or words) and augmentative communication can be very helpful for encouraging communicative progress. For young children, it is key to develop a fun, meaningful environment for therapy and general language learning. For additional information on language development and home activities visit the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) website at http://www.ndsccenter.org/resources/speech-and-language/

Since children with Down syndrome have low tone, and poor coordination, they frequently have difficulty with feeding. A speech therapist or an occupational therapist can help with feeding disorders by aiding in the development of the strength and coordination necessary for eating. Strengthening these abilities will also improve expressive language.

Occupational Therapy

As previously mentioned, this population is characterized as having low muscle tone and loose ligaments at the joints which can impact coordination and stamina. An occupational therapist can help with fine motor development necessary for eating, dressing, playing and a myriad of skills that are important for participation in age appropriate activities.

Parent Participation

Therapists and educators must work in partnership with families and caregivers. As experienced professionals with specialized skills, therapists can identify strengths, weaknesses and emerging abilities. However, we need to set the stage for growth and progress across all settings. Training and supporting parents by providing resources, strategies, and adaptions related to a child’s individual treatment plan are key to success.

Early Intervention is Important for a Child with Down Syndrome.
Speech therapy will help a child develop the skills to communicate as effectively as possible. Occupational therapy will help them develop the strength, motor planning and coordination needed for self-help skills. Improvement in these areas result in greater participation with their friends and community – leading to a much more productive, meaningful, happy life.

The Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas is a great local resource, offering many activities for individuals of all ages with Down syndrome, as well as parent support activities.

Visit them at http://downsyndromedallas.org/

For more information visit http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/What-Is-Down-Syndrome/

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