Down syndrome, sometimes called Trisomy 21, is one of the most common chromosomal genetic disorders, affecting approximately 1 in every 700 babies born in the U.S. Most experience developmental and physical delays, and often have several physical conditions that require additional treatment.
There are many ways our Akron physical therapy services can help children with Down syndrome, working with them from infancy through adulthood to help them reach their maximum level of functioning and go on to lead healthy, productive lives.
How Does Down Syndrome Impair Physical Function?
Babies born with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, altering the typical development of both the brain and body and resulting in varying ranges of both intellectual and physical challenges.
Therapy & Wellness Connection offers Akron physical therapy in your home, school or work environment, working side-by-side with our patients and their families to help sidestep or minimize some of the most common complications of the condition, such as obesity and developmental delay, as well as help improve and maintain cardiovascular fitness, as between 40 and 60 percent of those with Down syndrome suffer some type of congenital heart disease.
One of the defining physical characteristics of Down syndrome is low muscle tone, lower bone density, decreased strength and trouble with posture/balance – all of which can delay motor development (movement). They also frequently have problems with feeding and hand use challenges, and sometimes intense pain from joint problems. Each of these can be addressed and improved with help from our Akron physical therapy services.
How Akron Physical Therapy Can Help Children With Down Syndrome
The good news is that many teens and adults with Down syndrome go on to be active participants in family and community activities, leading lives that are both active and productive.
Our dedicated physical therapists work with individuals, families and other health care providers to reduce the impact of these conditions – in some cases preventing them from developing in the first place. Best results are when a child is receiving adequate medical services and supportive home and educational environments that incorporate physical therapy.
Physical therapists work to help children with this condition improve their muscle strength, coordination, movement, balance and gain their peak level of independence in activities of daily life.
The Top 5 Ways Physical Therapists Treat Children With Down Syndrome:
- Strength-building. There are a number of exercises we can practice to help you child increase their strength.These can include fun games, adjusted to their abilities as they grow, to help maintain heart health and lower the risk of obesity.
- Developmental skills. Children with Down syndrome are delayed when mastering motor skills like crawling, standing, walking and safe eating. We can work on this in the clinic, as well as at home and in day care settings, giving parents and caregivers training for how to support these emerging skills in a way that’s safe and efficient.
- Improvement of balance, coordination and control of posture. This often starts quite early, with exercises like using a ball to help improve the child’s ability to hold their head up or maintain a sitting position. Other things like jumping or throwing a ball can be worked into a fun physical therapy regime.
- Improving physical fitness. Promotion of healthy living choices can help reduce some of the common complications that stem from cardiovascular problems and obesity.
- Educating parents and caregivers. Little of what we do will have the maximum impact if we don’t educate parents to carryover these skills and incorporate these exercises in everyday life. It’s a critical part of therapy and the child’s success.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides physical therapy to children with Down syndrome in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Facts about Down Syndrome, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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NEW: Functional Fitness Class by Brecksville Occupational Therapist, July 25, 2019, Akron Physical Therapy Blog
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, regardless of whether it’s co-occurring with other conditions, occupational therapy has been proven to help in a number of ways. Our Akron ADHD occupational therapy helps children develop the skills necessary to complete everyday tasks. That means:
- Improving organizational skills
- Learning to control their hyperactivity;
- Practicing basic self hygiene and healthy eating;
- Promoting positive behaviors;
- Coping with anxiety;
- Advancing physical coordination/gross motor skills.
We want children to grow to be functionally independent, healthy, happy contributors in their families and greater communities. Akron ADHD occupational therapy over time can help your child develop the life skills to help make this possible.
Government data shows roughly 1 in 12 U.S. children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a disorder related to speech, language, swallowing or voice. Some child speech delays and language problems are associated with congenital conditions like Down Syndrome, but they’re often discovered around age 2 when a parent notices their child isn’t keeping up with other children their age.
Child speech delays and language disorders have a number of possible causes, and it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand what these might be – as well as why a thorough, professional evaluation may be necessary for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
It’s also imperative to understand that some of these conditions won’t simply resolve on their own, and that the sooner we can start Cleveland speech therapy, the better the long-term prognoses. This is important because the inability to communicate – to speak and understand what’s being spoken – can have serious, long-term impact to a child’s ability to connect with parents and peers, excel in school and navigate their greater community.
It’s been more than 30 years since the so-called “1987 Study” by psychologists determined the optimal “dose” for behavior therapy for children with autism was 40 hours a week. Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) on that kind of intensive schedule had big results – typical functioning for children between the ages of 9 to 19, compared to the little impact seen for those who received just 10 hours of ABA therapy weekly.
We recognize that many parents of children newly-diagnosed with autism respond to that figure with some shock. It’s a lot to take in. After all, 40 hours is a full-time job – and our ABA therapists are recommending it to toddlers.
But even though smaller, controlled trials in the years since never exactly replicated the dose results of the 1987 Study, most were close. And now, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, which had previously recommended 30-40 hours weekly per child, formalized that recommendation last month.
The latest class offered at Therapy & Wellness Connection is a functional fitness class by a certified occupational therapist. So many wonderful benefits to this great course – sign up today!
Early intervention has proven key to long-term success for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Decades of rigorous study have shown that the earlier speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapists intervene, the greater the odds of significant reductions in delays and functional impediments. Early intervention Akron autism treatment that begins before age 6 is the most effective in rerouting those neurological pathways.
But should we treat children before they’ve even been diagnosed?
There is growing research to support the practice, and as speech, occupational and ABA therapists, we know it’s really never too early to start.
Many adults are charmed by a young child’s lisp, finding it adorable when they mispronounce their s’s and z’s. If you ask an Akron speech therapist, most kids do outgrow these miscommunications. However, there may come a time when a child’s lisp requires speech therapy intervention.
Most kids won’t develop a prominent lisp, but it’s not uncommon. The younger the child, the tougher it is to figure out if they actually have a lisp or if it’s just “baby-talk.” As the child gets older, though, that lisp can become a hindrance socially and even academically and professionally.
Although there are stages for development of every sound, by roughly age 4 or 5, most children’s speech is understood. By age 8, most children can say all of their sounds correctly.
Most speech therapists recommend beginning treatment somewhere in this window. Our speech-language pathologists at Therapy & Wellness Connection generally agree that earlier is better because the longer it goes on, the tougher it can be to “unlearn.” In no case will speech therapy ever be harmful, but acting sooner could mean your child has a chance to tackle the issue before his or her peers ever really notice.
At the very least, parents with concerns should make an appointment for an Akron speech consultation to determine whether swift action is advisable.
When a child is referred for Cleveland OT (occupational therapy) services, parents are sometimes a bit bewildered.
“Why would a child need to learn an occupation?”
With other types of pediatric therapy, the name sort of says it all, right?
- Speech-language therapy – Teaching children how to communicate, understand language, articulate, etc.
- Physical therapy – Helping children overcome some type of physical condition, whether orthopedic, neurological, developmental, congenital or musculoskeletal.
- Behavior therapy (ABA) – Assisting kids with conditions like autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome to learn how to navigate socially significant behaviors.
Occupational therapy is a bit trickier to explain because it’s such a broad discipline. Cleveland OT services at Therapy & Wellness Connection helps children with various needs improve their physical, sensory, cognitive and motor skills, all while boosting their self esteem and pride in accomplishments.
As a long-time Brecksville speech therapist (and mother) I know well the fact that children develop at different paces and in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to speech and language.
Because let’s be honest: Learning a new language is hard!
Although human children are hard-wired to master their native tongue, slight delays are fairly common, and often will resolve themselves over time.
However, if you have concerns about your children’s speech and language progress, don’t let anyone – pediatrician, family member or even a spouse – stop you from trusting your gut and least getting an opinion from speech therapy professionals.
At Therapy & Wellness Connection, we recognize families are already pinched for time as it is and concerns about a child’s speech delay can be stressful. We’re not here to pile on services your child doesn’t need. What we do want is to give every youth the best possible opportunity to succeed long-term. If there is evidence of a noteworthy delay or challenge, we don’t want the skills’ deficit to snowball (and left untreated, it can). That’s why we recommend early intervention.
If you are concerned your child might be on the autism spectrum, you are right to seek answers as soon as possible. That’s because while there is no cure for autism, the most effective treatment with the best long-term outcomes – academically, socially-emotionally and in terms of independence – is a combination of early intervention services that includes ABA therapy. Yet few if any health insurers will cover these services (ABA therapy in particular) if a child does not have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
One of the first steps in the diagnostic process is an ADOS test.
Therapy and Wellness Connection offer ADOS testing at our ABA therapy clinic in Brecksville or in your home in a surrounding communities like Broadview Heights, Akron and Cleveland. We can also help you obtain pre-approval for insurance coverage of the test itself.
What is the ADOS Test?
“ADOS” stands for Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. It’s a semi-structured, standardized test measuring the degree to which a child is considered at-risk for autism spectrum disorder.
Unlike a child with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, there is no genetic test, no blood marker or brain scan that can tell us definitively whether a child has autism. Complicating matters is the fact that the autism spectrum itself is so vast, there can be fair dispute between professionals over whether a child meets the qualifications.
The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders sets the criteria for pediatric neurologists, psychologists and psychiatrists to make an autism spectrum diagnosis, which affects 1 in 59 children and 1 in 38 boys.
Autism is a neuro-developmental condition characterized by:
- Trouble communicating and interacting with others.
- Interests that are restrictive and behaviors that are competitive.
- These and other symptoms that inhibit a person’s ability to function in school, work or other areas of life.
Autism isn’t even the only condition with some of these symptoms. For example, a young child with delayed speech who seems fairly uninterested in social interaction and appears to flit from one task to the next could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Or, the child could have both conditions (something clinicians refer to as “co-morbidity”).
The ADOS test is can help clinicians narrow it down, and it’s one of the best measures we have to do so.
The ADOS test analyzes:
- Social interaction
- Cognitive function
- Play/imaginative use of materials
- Other behaviors relevant to autism spectrum disorder.
People of all ages and developmental levels – adult to toddler, verbally fluent to lacking any speech at all – can be effectively assessed with the ADOS test. There is a play-based version for very young children, and there is a more advanced ADOS analysis for older teens and adults.
Does Scoring High on the ADOS Test Mean My Child Has Autism?
Not necessarily, but it’s a good indicator of a strong possibility. The final determination will be made by an expert physician, such as one who specializes in pediatric neurology, behavior or psychiatry. Having those test results in hand will help the doctor make the best choice. You’ll want to make sure you express your concerns and observations with that specialist as well.
You do not need a doctor’s referral for your child to undergo the ADOS test. Clinicians at our ABA therapy clinic, which also provides speech, occupational and physical therapy, can conduct a free initial screening as well as the in-depth ADOS analysis without a doctor’s recommendation. Access to those early intervention services, however, will likely require a physician referral (if you want insurance to pay for it).
Call our offices if you have any questions at all. We know this is an overwhelming time for a lot of families, and we’re happy to help walk you through the process.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing ABA therapy to children Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), National Institute for Mental Health
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Brecksville ABA Tips on Traveling With a Child Who Has Autism, May 7, 2019, Akron ABA Therapy Provider