There is a great need for immediate intervention for children with Down syndrome. Physiotherapy does not fix the problem; development will still be slowed. However, it can address problems that are unique to Down syndrome children.
Early Down syndrome physiotherapy focuses on four problems that are common for these children. One is called hypotonia. This means that the child’s muscles lack tone. That is why, when you lay a Down syndrome child in his crib, he will flop out like a rag doll. Hypotonia needs to be treated because it affects the ability of the child to learn motor skills or to support himself correctly.
Another problem that can be helped by Down syndrome physiotherapy is laxity of the ligaments. The ligaments are so loose that they do not support the bones adequately. In infancy, it can be seen in the way they lie down with their legs splayed apart. In later years, their ankles and other joints will be loose enough to cause support problems.
Down syndrome physiotherapy is essential in helping these children overcome muscular weakness. If they are not exercised to correct the problem, they will develop behaviors that will make up for their lack of strength. Some of these behaviors may be harmful. For example, they may lock their knees to make up for having weak legs.
One problem these children face is in their body shape. Their arms and legs are generally shorter compared to their trunks than in most people. This leads to all kinds of problems sitting and climbing. Just reaching the table to eat can be a chore. Down syndrome physiotherapy can help with this problem.
In early intervention Down syndrome physiotherapy, the emphasis is on overcoming weakness and learning gross motor skills. Rolling over, sitting, crawling, and walking will all happen eventually, anyway. However, with Down syndrome physiotherapy, they can take place with solid physical foundations.
There is a concern with Down syndrome physiotherapy of parents notifying the doctors of problems that might require the help of a physiotherapist. A parent may be at a loss as to what is to be considered worthy of attention. After all, they already know that their child is not like other children who do not have Down syndrome.
If parents see a Down syndrome child having trouble holding up her neck, it is essential to call it to the attention of the doctor so that physiotherapy can be ordered to strengthen neck muscles. This is one example of many where a physiotherapist might help.
Once Down syndrome physiotherapy is started, it is best to keep up a life-long program to maintain health. Prevention of age-related problems with bones, ligaments, and muscles is becoming increasingly important. This is because people with Down syndrome are living to older ages. In fact there are more Down syndrome people over the age of 60 than ever before. Physiotherapy can help them live quality lives.
Down syndrome physiotherapy is often ignored until much damage has been done. The children are left with weaknesses, odd behaviors, and disfigurements that need not have happened. If Down syndrome physiotherapy is started early enough, the child will have a much healthier life.