Therapies for Down Syndrome

by Carol Gomes

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder, which leads to developmental delays, lifelong mental retardation and other problems in a person. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder, though early treatment and intervention can have a positive impact on the lives of the individuals suffering from this syndrome. There are various medications, treatments and therapies to help people with Down syndrome realize their potential abilities and improve their quality life.

Soon after birth, babies with Down syndrome are required to undergo early intervention programs, which consist of therapies, activities and exercises specifically designed to help them. Two of the most common therapies for Down syndrome include –
  • Physical Therapy: This form of therapy concentrates on the motor development of the child. As most kids with this disorder have low muscle tone or hypotonia, physical therapy helps them to move their bodies in the right way, to increase their muscle tone. Moreover, many children also meet their motor milestones because of working with their muscles and movements.
  • Speech Therapy: Most children suffering from Down syndrome have small mouths and larger tongues, which could cause articulation problems. Therefore, speech therapy is absolutely essential for kids with Down syndrome. Speech therapists work with individuals and help them learn how to communicate clearly. This could be achieved by talking or through sign language.

There are other therapies for Down syndrome, which could help children become more independent and lead a near-normal life. These therapies include –
  • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists usually focus on the child’s ability to become independent by mastering self-care skills, motor skills, playing and leisure skills. Children also learn important skills like cutting, printing, and so on, making it possible for them to attend normal school and perhaps even taking up jobs, as they grow older.
  • Music Therapy: Very often, people with learning disabilities and developmental delays caused by Down syndrome respond to music. Music therapy encourages children to vocalize their thoughts, sing and dance. This therapy can provide individuals with opportunities to respond and express themselves. In some instances music therapy can also be used to help children with motor skills, self-awareness and social interaction.
Children suffering from Down syndrome should be treated by a whole team of specialists. This team usually consists of –
  • A developmental pediatrician
  • A pediatric cardiologist
  • A pediatric endocrinologist
  • A pediatric gastroenterologist
  • A pediatric neurologist
  • A physical therapist
  • A primary care pediatrician
  • A speech pathologist
  • An audiologist
  • An occupational therapist
It is possible for children with Down syndrome to meet their developmental milestones, but they usually take a bit longer than others.

References:
  • http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/DownSyndrome.html
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/down-syndrome/DS00182/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

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