Down Syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality (one extra chromosome) which results in mental retardation and certain physical characteristics. In addition, Down Syndrome babies may develop slower than other children and may suffer from heart defects and other conditions. Of particular concern to physiotherapists is the fact that these children might not achieve physical milestones, such as crawling and walking, at the same rate as other children.
Children with Down Syndrome exhibit hypotonia or low tone. This is lack of tension in the muscle in its resting state. The child feels ‘floppy’ when you hold him. Hypotonia makes it difficult for the child to maintain and develop gross motor skills at the same rate as other children. At Exercise Prescription and Physiotherapy , we will prescribe and monitor a variety of exercises to increase tone and strength of the muscles of the upper and lower limbs, neck, back, stomach and pelvic area, which assists in the development of gross motor skills. Exercises to improve posture and balance and muscular endurance are all part of the physiotherapy for Down Syndrome programme.
Decreased muscle strength in the legs contributes to poor posture and balance. Some children may lean to one side to compensate for weakness on the other side, or they may lock their knees to help them in standing. Problems with jumping, hopping and alternating feet when walking up or down stairs are common. Graded exercise and practice can build muscle strength and prevent the child from developing these compensatory patterns, which can lead to orthopaedic problems in adolescence or adulthood.
At Exercise Prescription and Physiotherapy, we aim to make treatment enjoyable for the Down Syndrome child as well as the parent by making the exercise programme interactive and stimulating and by using interesting and colourful exercise equipment. Parents are taught how to implement the exercise programme with the child at home. With proper intervention and exercise, a child with Down Syndrome can lead a life of fuller physical function.
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