Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that could create delayed physical and cognitive skills. Giving the proper treatment for Down syndrome starting from an early age will allow the parents and caregivers to see significant development in a DS kid.
How is Down Syndrome Treated?
Down Syndrome can be treated with specific medical interventions and therapies.
The four main categories for Down syndrome treatments and Therapies:
Role of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is important for a Down syndrome kid to achieve gross motor skills with all the crucial components like upright and head trunk posture, proper alignment of hips, knees, and ankles, and shoulder position.
This therapy mainly concentrates on and guides the kids to
- Learning to sit
- Moving into the sitting posture
- Learning to stand (with optimal standing posture)
- There is a post-walking phase that helps to refine the walking pattern. This helps in movement patterns and foot management.
Role of Speech and Language Therapy:
What has an impact on speech and language in a Down syndrome kid?
- Low facial muscle tone
- A comparatively larger tongue
- Frequent ear infections
- Push back in development milestones
The result is that your child understands a language differently from how they express themselves in words.
Understanding is more potent when compared to expressing the same with Down syndrome kids.
Parents and caregivers can use this as a primary communication way. They should speak and sigh simultaneously.
This helps Down syndrome kids to communicate their needs while also supporting them on the path of their oral language development.
By one year of age, the child will understand that language is a form of communication and will most likely respond with signs until they are ready to speak.
Other Treatments and Intervention for Speech Therapy:
- Visualization exercises
- Expressive language skills
- Social skills
- Oral motor planning
- Choice-making activities
- Playing skills
- Initiating topic conversation
- Articulation skills
- Auditory skills
Role of Behavioural Therapy
1 in 10 children with Down syndrome has behavioural issues which professional therapies can overcome.
Remember, this is not the child’s fault, and there are some underlying reasons for this. Below listed are the most reasons.
- Trouble communicating
- Trouble relating them to their peers and adults
- Trouble noticing the signals that alert them to what needs to be avoided.
- The trouble is caused by underlying medical conditions like sleep apnea, poor thyroid function, vision and hearing challenges, digestive issues, and anxiety.
Please remember that the behavioural challenges faced by Down syndrome are not something entirely different from those seen in a typical developing child.
The only difference is that they might show up at a later age and last longer than usual.
How can Parents and Caregivers manage Down syndrome Behavior?
Give simple and clear directions:
Language and instructions are often some of the challenges faced by these kids. The more complicated language you use, the less they understand.
Break your sentences short and use simple words that they can understand better.
Have Fun when it is Hard:
Make their tasks less challenging by making them fun.
If your child finds it hard to eat, create a family mealtime where the entire family sits together to have a fun time while eating.
Give Visual Schedules and Instructions:
This is one of the best types of instruction that helps children. This is also a famous approach at schools.
The below chart is one such example. This gives clear visual instruction of what the child is expected to do after each task/routine.
Give Reward for Good Behavior:
Help your child achieve what you want them to. Set up a system that encourages and rewards them for all the right actions.
Children with Down syndrome often like this approach when correctly done. But before starting this, make sure you answer have answers to the following questions
- What reward will encourage your child?
- When should you reward your child? Immediately after the action is done your child will be able to understand the connection between the reward and the action if given later.
- What are the few things you would like your child to do more often to be rewarded?
This could be more inviting and effective if you follow this with a planned chart.
Three important points to be remembered while executing:
- Avoid overdoing this with many actions as that might not excite the kids and lead to anxiety.
- You can expect results only if you are consistent with the use of your chart.
- Don’t stop doing this once you see the results. If you expect continuous behaviour from your kid, your action needs to be unbroken.
Avoid Power struggles:
Power struggles often happen at home when a parent wants to do one thing, and the kid doesn’t want to do it.
This is, in common, more upsetting for both parent and the kid. This is particularly hard with a Down syndrome kid.
It’s challenging and sometimes impossible to avoid power struggles, but you can have some options for your kid.
- For any action, don’t force your kid with only one choice.
- If it’s only one choice, then give them an if-then option. When the kid picks your choice, he/she will be allowed to do something that interests them.
Parents often start to yell at their kids when they misbehave.
The basic rule to deal with this situation is by making the misbehaviour less interesting for the kid.
When a child misbehaves, rather than being mad at the kid, stay calm and don’t react. Remember, shouting or yelling might be rewarding to your kid, and it will encourage more such misbehaviours.
Let’s understand this with an example.
You are having an important conversation with your family, and the kid starts misbehaving by messing up things around.
Don’t do this: The conversation stops, you yell at the kid, and start clearing up the mess.
Instead, do this: Stop the conversation, don’t react or tell the child anything, clean up the mess, and resume the work.
Role of Occupational Therapy
The role of Occupational therapy varies at every stage of a Down syndrome child.
An occupational therapist teaches basic self-handling life skills such as eating, dressing, holding pencils, and participating in activities with other kids at the earlier phase of life.
With the increase in age, they assist with career-oriented skills and help in the job search.
The ultimate goal of this therapy is to provide a self-sufficient life where they can take care of themselves independently.
Role of Assistive Devices
Over the years, technology has developed many assistive devices for people with Down syndrome. These devices are designed to help them actively and productively participate in social life.
The Turkish Online Journal for Educational Technology research model suggests that Assistive Technology (AT) indirectly impacts these kids’ performance, independent lifestyle, and social interaction.
Popular Misconceptions of Down Syndrome that could be Treated:
People with Down syndrome are always sick.
Fact: People with Down syndrome are prone to certain medical conditions, including congenital heart diseases, diabetes, immunity disorder, thyroid, and infections.
However, advancements in the medical sector have paved the way for treatments that allow individuals with Down syndrome to lead healthy lives.
Down Syndrome children can enrol only in segregated educational and recreational activity programs.
Fact: While part of this is true, not all children with Down Syndrome always need special care in education. Down Children can make good progress if they are fully socially included and accepted.
Too much-individualized learning can reduce exposure to age-appropriate behavioural/language opportunities.
With growing treatment and support, individuals with Down syndrome graduate from high school with diplomas and participate in academic and college programs.
It is difficult for the parents and family members to find support in bringing up their child with Down syndrome.
Fact: While it was hard in the past and not anymore. There are many non-profitable organizations and groups wide open to parents to act as advocates in guiding the future of Down syndrome kids.
These organizations make the kids feel unique and proud of themselves. Down syndrome Federation of India, Amrit Foundation of India, and Child Raise Trust are to name a few.
People who have Down syndrome cannot walk or be active in sports
Down syndrome is not associated with walking disabilities. Some children might use limbs while walking because of spinal issues, which is again not the case with all.
However, early physical therapy for any development delays will ensure the building of a proper foundation.
And with proper guidance, many Down syndrome kids worldwide have proven themselves in various sports, and there are teams all over the world that include these kids, including the Special Olympics.
People with Down syndrome can’t read or write.
Fact: Research shows that with well-trained mentors, a Down syndrome kid can perform well with his/her reading and writing skills.
More research is being carried out to find the methodologies on how effectively these kids can be trained to make them perform at their best.
All people with Down syndrome are obese.
Fact: Gaining weight can be because of diabetes, thyroid, or lower metabolic rate contribution (inability to burn more calories) in these kids.
Medical therapies can help people with Down syndrome follow the right and exercise to maintain the right weight.
Be clear. Down syndrome is not a disease. It’s a condition that causes delayed development in kids. But if they are treated right, they can perform equally or even more than any other children in society.