Therapy is Important for Children with Down Syndrome

Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder, is the most common genetic developmental disability, occurring in one of every 800-1000 births.  Most individuals with this disorder have three number 21 chromosomes, instead of two, in each of the cells.  This most common category of Down syndrome is called Trisomy 21, and makes up about 95% of this population. Translocation Down syndrome is found in approx. 3% of this diagnostic group.  Approximately 2% have Mosaic Down syndrome.

This developmental disorder results in physical and cognitive challenges.  When you see how a single difference in a chromosome can make such a difference in a person’s development, you realize human development is truly complex and miraculous!

Children with Down syndrome need early, consistent therapy

Down SyndromeOccupational therapists address deficits in motor skills that are common for children with Down syndrome.  These challenges are typically related to structural, neuro-motor or sensory differences characteristic of this population.    There is a broad range of possible deficits, but a child with this congenital disorder may have shortened bones, unstable vertebrae in the neck, heart defects, low tone and muscle weakness, as well as additional physical differences.  Children with Down syndrome may be over responsive or under responsive to sensory input.  A sensory integration disorder can impact a child’s ability to learn and self-manage behavior.  These children often have difficulty processing information from sensory modalities, such as vision, touch, and auditory, making it difficult to integrate and store information effectively.  So addressing sensory deficits is important.  Most children in this population have mild to moderate intellectual challenges and require additional support in learning routines of daily living, whether that be help with hygiene routines or learning appropriate play skills.  Occupational therapists assist with all of these areas of concern.

Speech Therapy is important for a child with Down syndrome since cognition and processing are usually impaired.  A speech language pathologist would focus on strengthening receptive understanding of speech and expressive abilities, which can include articulation and functional use of verbal language.  Sometimes, children with Down syndrome are good candidates for augmentative communication, if intelligibility is significantly impaired.  Technology has been helpful with many cognitive and communication challenges, since children seem to be drawn to Tablet devices, which afford many interesting applications and also provide more independence for children with motor challenges.

Children in this population have a greater chance of experiencing hearing loss and also having chronic ear infections due to structural differences in the ear canal and Eustachian tubes.  A speech therapist works with children who have a hearing impairment since hearing language is such an important part of how we typically develop receptive understanding and verbal speech. A speech language pathologist can also help with drooling, feeding and swallowing challenges sometimes associated with Down syndrome.

These children can make tremendous progress with treatment, education and a supportive family.  There are ample ways that each individual can contribute to/ and enjoy his or her community and have a meaningful life.  Speech and Occupational Therapy of North Texas is happy to be a local evaluation and treatment resource for children with Down syndrome, and their families, providing occupational therapy and speech therapy in the Murphy area, Plano, Frisco, and McKinney.  For more information about our services and locations, please contact us at 972-424-0148.

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