The Link Between Physio And Down Syndrome You Never Knew Existed

The Link Between Physio And Down Syndrome You Never Knew Existed
May 03 11:12 2018 Print This Article

Down syndrome continues to be the most common chromosomal disorder in Canada, according to the most recent numbers published last year[1]. About 1 in 750 live born babies in Canada has this genetic condition caused by a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. Today, people with Down syndrome can lead normal, healthy lives and grow old alongside their loved ones, with the expectancy having increased dramatically in recent decades – from 25 in 1983 to 60 today[2].

Moreover, women aged 35 years or older are more prone to having a baby with Down syndrome than younger ones. A child usually gets diagnosed while the mother is still pregnant or during their first year of life. What does this mean exactly? The baby will have well-defined physical features, might experience intellectual delay and they have higher risks to developing a range of medical conditions, with congenital heart defects and respiratory issues being at the top of the list.[3]

Physiotherapy’s role in Down syndrome

Due to the fact that children with Down syndrome often have weaker muscle tones, flattened noses, small ears, mouth and hands and a high joint instability, achieving normal developmental milestones, such as crawling or walking, becomes increasingly difficult and it may take longer. Most children never reach their average adult height and it may take them years to learn how to go about mundane tasks. Regardless if it takes longer and the road is rockier, people with Down syndrome can live happy, full and healthy lives, and physiotherapy can play a key role here.

According to a study published in the Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics in 2017, physiotherapy, specifically strength training has been proven to be safe and effective in children with Down syndrome[4]. The study analysed 15 diagnosed children experiencing muscle and pulmonary dysfunctions and impaired motor skills. Over a period of 12 successive weeks, the participants underwent training for an hour for three times weekly. The results showed an increase in lower limb strength and improved pulmonary function.

And it does not stop here. There is an actual opportunity that goes beyond motor skills development and it has to do with learning. It goes without saying that children with Down syndrome will experience life, education and learning in a very different way than your typical child would. Because of this, the traditional and go-to teaching methods might not work in these cases. By beginning physiotherapy early, parents have the opportunity to better understand how their child assimilates information and get a glimpse of how their brains work to facilitate his future education. A physiotherapist can also help them build social skills, make interaction less frightening and incomprehensible and better prepare them for their adult life.

The main goal above anything else in physiotherapy is to enable individuals to perform at their maximum potential and significantly improve quality of life, regardless of age, sex or background.

[1]https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/down-syndrome-surveillance-2005-2013.html

[2]https://www.ndss.org/about-down-syndrome/down-syndrome-facts/

[3]https://infobase.phac-aspc.gc.ca/datalab/down-syndrome-blog-en.html

[4]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1110863016000288

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