October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – a fact that sometimes has people asking, “Who ISN’T aware of Down syndrome?”
It’s true that Down syndrome is far and away the most common condition involving chromosomes. It occurs in about 1 in every 691 births, with more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the U.S. today, according to the CDC, and many of us are at least somewhat familiar with it and have probably met at least one person who has it.
The month of awareness started in the 1980s by the National Down Syndrome Society. The express goal was to spread awareness as well as greater understanding about Down syndrome and to promote advocacy and foster inclusion throughout the community.
Raising a child with Down syndrome is full of so many unique joys and challenges. With loving parents, proper medical care and early intervention therapy (some combination of speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, starting before age 5) many children with Down syndrome go on to lead healthy, happy and productive lives.
While many parents of a baby or toddler with Down syndrome can see the value of speech therapy and even occupational therapy (skills of independent living). Physical therapy for Down syndrome may seem unnecessary because parents are already expecting delays characteristic of the diagnoses. Most children with Down syndrome DO learn to do all those things, albeit at around 24 months rather than 12 months for typically-developing children.
When physical therapists work with children who have Down syndrome, they aren’t as concerned about those missed milestones as we are that WHEN they walk, run, play, skip and jump, they will be less likely to develop some of the functional and orthopedic issues to which people with Down Syndrome are prone.