Pediatric Physical Therapy Treatments For Children With Down Syndrome

Pediatric Physical Therapy Treatments For Children With Down Syndrome | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

When a child is born with Down syndrome, it can host a series of challenges for their family and future.

Seeking out support and aid early in your child’s development can make a world of difference in their quality of life.

As Down syndrome comes with many physical challenges, many health care professionals would suggest implementing the help of a pediatric physical therapist.

Last time we talked about speech therapy treatments for children with Down syndrome, but a pediatric physical therapist will be an important part of your team as well.

Feeling unsure about what your next steps are?

Read on to learn more about Down syndrome, and how a physical therapist can help your child’s overall quality of life.

What Is Down Syndrome?

When most babies are born, they have 46 chromosomes in total.

They’re organized into pairs – 23 pairs in total.

One half of each pair comes from each parent.

Chromosomes are thread like structures that carry the genes in your DNA.

Babies with Down syndrome, though, have an extra copy of their 21st chromosome.

In pregnancy, your child’s chromosomes act like the blueprints for your child’s development in the womb.

The presence of an extra chromosome 21 can alter the development of your child’s body and brain, which can cause physical and intellectual challenges.

On average in the US, people born with Down syndrome tend to live to be approximately 60 years old.

While shorter than the average, this is a major improvement.

With the aid of physical therapists and health care professionals, people with Down syndrome can have very fulfilling lives.

What Are The Physical Symptoms Of Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is often detected before or at birth, through a few common physical characteristics.

These physical characteristics can include:

  • An upward slant of the eyes
  • A somewhat flattened facial profile
  • Low muscle tone
  • A singular deep crease across the palm of the hand
  • Small head, ears, and mouth

Other commonalities between people born with Down syndrome are:

These commonalities can be difficult to recognize early on at birth, and often become more traceable later on in the child’s development.

What Does A Down Syndrome Pregnancy Feel Like?

A Down syndrome pregnancy often feels just the same as a normal pregnancy.

As a result, doctors usually diagnose it through a prenatal screening test.

In some case, however, parents don’t realize their baby has down syndrome until they’re born.

What Causes Down Syndrome?

While the specific cause of the extra 21st chromosome in Down syndrome has not been discovered, a correlation between the increased age of mothers and children with Down syndrome has been found.

Parents who give birth over the age of 35 have an increased prevalence of babies with Down syndrome.

At the age of 20, parents have an incidence rate of 1 in 2000 for having a baby with Down syndrome, while parents at the age of 40 have an incidence rate of 1 in 100 childbirths.

In fact, because more people under 35 have babies overall, the majority of babies with Down syndrome are actually born to a parent under 35 years old.

At this time, researchers have found no definitive indication that Down syndrome is created from environmental factors or the parents’ activities during or before pregnancy.

Some early studies have been looking into the link between high stress levels of parents at the time of conception, but it hasn’t been scientifically confirmed as of yet.

The additional 21st chromosome can come from either parent.

How a speech therapist can help children with Down Syndrome | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

How Can A Physical Therapist Help Children With Down Syndrome?

People with Down syndrome may see additional physical challenges emerge later in their childhood and into their adulthood.

Some later in life challenges for those with Down syndrome may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Lower bone density
  • Sleep apnea
  • Trouble learning complex movements and tasks
  • Skin disorders
  • Early onset of dementia
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Hypertension and other cardiovascular issues
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Depression
  • Leukemia

A physical therapist works with your child, your family, and other health care providers to help lower the negative physical impact that Down syndrome can have on your child’s life.

In some cases, a physical therapist can help prevent associated conditions from even developing.

By pairing up with a physical therapist your child can put their best foot forward.

A physical therapist will work with your child to help them gain strength and advance their movement skills so they can best function in their day to day lives.

More specifically, a physical therapist will work with your child to improve their balance, coordination, muscle strength, and movement skills.

By gaining these skills you child with Down syndrome can increase their quality of life and independence.

Early intervention by a pediatric physical therapist can help a child with Down syndrome develop to their maximum potential.

When you first see your pediatric physical therapist, they’ll take the time to assess your child, with the idea of gaining a better understanding of their issues.

This will include:

  • A general health history
  • Physical exam
  • Muscle tone
  • Movement patterns
  • Height & weight
  • Motor skills
  • Vision
  • Learning skills
  • Developmental milestones they’ve reached (or not reached)
  • Any concerns you may have as a caregiver

From there, your pediatric physical therapist will provide you with a treatment plan.

Here are some of the elements you might find in your treatment plan.

1. Developing Physical Strength

Your pediatric physical therapist will teach your child movements and exercises to help increase their physical strength.

They’ll work with your child to find games and tasks that will improve their muscle strength.

When working with children it’s important to make these exercises challenging and fun.

As your child grows and their interests change, your physical therapist’s plan will grow along with them.

This flexibility ensures that their fitness and health plan is as effective as possible.

Obesity is a common condition amongst children with Down syndrome, so keeping active is an important facet of your child’s health.

2. Developing Locomotive Skills

Your physical therapist will guide your child to learn and master motor skills like walking, standing, crawling, and pulling themselves from sitting to standing.

They may offer your child hands on training for play, movement, feeding, and positions.

A pediatric physical therapist may also make suggestions on how your home can be as communicative and encouraging as possible for your child’s development.

Equipment like treadmills and balance balls are a popular tools used among pediatric physical therapists who work with children to develop their locomotive skills.

Skipping, jumping, and even dribbling a ball may also make their way into your child’s pediatric physical therapy routine.

3. Improving Balance

Through a combination exercise and play, your pediatric physical therapist will work on improving your child’s postural control, coordination and balance.

They might use a firm round pillow to help your child in developing their balance abilities.

Achieving a core balance is a blend of strengthening your child’s muscles and working on their physical awareness.

It can also reduce their risk of accidents.

4. Maintaining Physical Fitness

By assessing your child’s needs and limitations, your pediatric physical therapist can craft a fitness regimen that’s both fun and beneficial.

Keeping active and healthy can greatly reduce further complications associated with Down syndrome.

For new parents who have no experience with Down syndrome, a pediatric physical therapist can be a wealth of knowledge and a source of guidance in your child’s journey.

They can help craft a healthy diet and even weave community involvement in your child’s health.

By making fitness fun and even social, staying fit isn’t so much of a chore.

This can help them to live more independently.

Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today

If you have a child with Down syndrome, it can be a frightening diagnosis.

However, you’re not alone.

Thanks to modern advances in treatments for Down syndrome, many can go on to enjoy happy, fulfilling lives.

A pediatric physical therapist can help.

Book your appointment with District Speech today to find out how.

District Speech and Language Therapy
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005


District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.