|Patricia C. Winders||
Reprinted with the permission of the author|
© 1999 Patricia C. Winders, All rights reserved
The purpose of this article is to answer that very question. Why indeed should you invest your time and money in physical therapy? After all, you are quite right; children with Down syndrome will learn to walk, run and jump. It will take a little longer than it does a typical child, but the goals will be achieved. Typical children walk at around 12 months of age, and the average child with Down syndrome walks at about 24 months of age. And on top of that, physical therapy is not going to accelerate your child's rate of gross motor development. With or without therapy, the average child with Down syndrome is still going to walk at about 24 months of age. So now that I've just about convinced you that physical therapy isn't worth your time and money, let me say that physical therapy is one of the most important services that the child with Down syndrome will receive in the early intervention period, and it is during this time that physical therapy will have the greatest impact. Let me explain some of the reasons that I recommend it.
There are 4 factors which will have an impact on the gross motor development of a child with Down syndrome:
Besides preventing the development of abnormal compensatory movements there is an additional opportunity that can be realized by the parent and child during physical therapy. The mastery of gross motor development is the first arena in which your child will take on the challenges of life. Fine motor development, speech and education are all challenges that lie ahead, but gross motor development: rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking are the first challenges he will meet in life. Additionally gross motor skills will be an area of strength for him. The opportunity is for the two of you to learn how to work together in meeting and overcoming the challenges. It is the opportunity for you to begin to learn how he learns. For instance, you are likely to find that he does best when information is presented in small, easily digested bites. You will discover whether he is a risk taker or someone who needs to proceed at a slower and more careful pace. You will find that motivation is a key component to getting his best performance. What the two of you learn in meeting the challenge of gross motor development can provide you with a model for how to meet the other challenges that lie ahead in other areas.
Physical therapy services can be accessed through the Early Intervention Program in your area. In 1975 President Ford signed into law PL 94-142, the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA). The law was amended in 1986 to establish the Handicapped Infants and Toddlers Program (Part H), which provided for services for children from birth to their third birthday. Further amendments in 1990 and 1991 changed the name of the law to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Part H became known as the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. States use the law as a guideline for developing policies for providing services to infants and toddlers. Exactly how those services are provided and through what agencies varies from state to state.
In choosing a physical therapist, you want one who has pediatric experience. This gives them knowledge about how children develop gross motor skills. You also want a physical therapist that has experience treating children with Down syndrome and understands the abnormal compensatory movements that they are prone to develop.
Once the child with Down syndrome has learned to walk, you will use the post walking skills to refine his walking pattern (i.e. a narrow base with feet pointing straight ahead). At this point you will want to access community recreation programs like Gymboree, dance, gymnastics, adapted physical education programs or any other program that develops strength, balance, speed and endurance.
Once your child has mastered the basic gross motor skills, your attention will necessarily and appropriately be drawn to other areas, such as speech and language and school performance. Still, you want physical exercise to become an integral and enjoyable part of your child's day to day life. A sedentary life style has negative consequences for anyone, but more so for a person with Down syndrome. If you want additional information, my book, Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, provides you with step by step instructions to facilitate the development of gross motor skills. The book is available through Woodbine House (800) 843-7323.
|http://www.ds-health.com||Revised: October 3, 2000.|