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For children with Down syndrome, there is a strong need for immediate intervention. Physical therapy does not solve the problem; development will still be slowed. It can, however, address problems that are unique to children with Down syndrome.
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Early physical therapy for Down syndrome focuses on four problems that are common in these children. One is called hypotonia. This means that the child’s muscles lack tone. This is why when you put a child with Down syndrome in his crib, he flops down like a rag doll. Hypotonia needs to be treated because it affects the child’s ability to learn motor skills or support himself properly.
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Another problem that can be helped with Down syndrome physical therapy is laxity of the ligaments. The ligaments are very lax and do not adequately support the bones. In infancy, this can be seen in the way their legs are spread apart when they lie down. In later years, their ankles and other joints can be lax enough to cause support problems.
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Down syndrome physical therapy is essential to help these children overcome muscle weakness. If they are not given exercises to correct this problem, they will develop behaviors to compensate for their lack of strength. Some of these behaviors may be harmful. For example, they may lock their knees to compensate for weakness in the legs.
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One problem these children face is their body shape. Their arms and legs are usually shorter than their torsos compared to most people. This leads to a variety of sitting and crawling problems. Simply getting to the table to eat can be a chore. Down syndrome physical therapy can help with this problem.
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In early intervention Down syndrome physical therapy, the focus is on overcoming weaknesses and learning gross motor skills. Rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking will eventually happen anyway. However, with Down syndrome physical therapy, they can be done on a solid physical basis.
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One concern in physical therapy for Down syndrome is for parents to inform their physician of issues that may require the help of a physical therapist. Parents may not know what to look for. After all, they already know that their child is not like other children without Down syndrome.
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If a parent sees that a child with Down syndrome has difficulty holding up the neck, it is important to bring this to the doctor’s attention so that physical therapy can be ordered to strengthen the neck muscles. This is one of many examples of how a physical therapist may be able to help.
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Once physical therapy for Down syndrome has been started, it is best to stick to a lifelong program to stay healthy. Preventing age-related problems with bones, ligaments and muscles is becoming increasingly important. This is because people with Down syndrome are living into old age. In fact, there are more people with Down syndrome over the age of 60 than ever before. Physical therapy can help them lead a high quality of life.
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Physical therapy for Down syndrome is often neglected until a lot of damage is done. Children are left with weaknesses, strange behaviors and disfigurement that don’t need to happen. If physical therapy for Down syndrome is started early enough, the child will have a healthier life.