Advocacy and Research

National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

By Riva Preil

Not only is October the National Physical Therapy Month, but it is also the National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Down Syndrome, also called Trisomy 21, is a congenital condition associated with nondisjunction (non-separating) of the 21st chromosome during meiosis, which means that the zygote inherits an extra chromosome, totaling 47 instead of 46.

Children born with Down Syndrome are capable of leading long and productive lives despite the medical and cognitive challenges they face. The medical conditions that often affect children born with Down Syndrome include possible congenital heart defects, thyroid disorder, hypotonia (low muscle tone), visual problems, auditory defects, and possible seizure disorder. Many of these children receive physical therapy through early intervention, federally funded services to help these children improve motor control and achieve as many developmental milestones as possible. In particular, children with low muscle tone have difficulty with transitioning from one position to another and they often develop poor postural habits. Physical therapy can help correct for any of these poor patterns and strive to prevent future joint damage. Furthermore, they help the child become as independent as possible in both static (ex. proper sitting, standing) and dynamic (ex. crawling, walking) activities.

Other services that benefit children with Down Syndrome include speech therapy and occupational therapy. Also, close monitoring of the general health of the child by a competent pediatrician is important, and referrals should be made to appropriate health care providers (ex. cardiologist, endocrinologist, audiologist, and/or optometrist) when necessary.

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