What is Down’s Syndrome?
Down’s Syndrome is developed at conception due to an additional chromosome. Children with Down’s Syndrome have 47 chromosomes in their cells instead of 46. They also have an extra chromosome 21, which is why Down's Syndrome is also called Trisomy 21.
How would I know if my child has Down’s Syndrome?
As Down’s Syndrome is a condition that occurs in utero it is often detected as part of the prenatal screening processes. Occasionally it is not detected, or parents opt not to have this screening.
Down’s Syndrome is characterised by physical characteristics and some degree of learning disability. Each child with Down’s Syndrome is different, some have medical complications and require large amounts of intervention whereas others lead healthy lives with high degrees of independence. Lots of children with Down’s Syndrome lead active, healthy and fulfilling lives and are well integrated into the community.
If you would like to learn more about how we as occupational therapists can help people overcome common difficulties associated with Down’s Syndrome, you will find some useful links at the bottom of this page.
How can an Occupational Therapist help my child with Down’s Syndrome?
Children with Down’s Syndrome may need more support than their peers to achieve developmental milestones and access everyday facilities such as the school curriculum or social networks. Our team of expert paediatric occupational therapists are skilled at working with children with Down’s Syndrome and their families to help achieve the highest level of independence and quality of life.
Here are some examples of how we can help:
Self care skills
The activities that other children may develop naturally such as toileting, dressing and feeding can present a significant challenge for children with Down’s Syndrome. A paediatric occupational therapist will identify which tasks and component parts they are struggling with, and provide one-to-one treatment sessions and / or advice on equipment, techniques and strategies that may help.
Fine motor skills
These are a common area of difficulty for lots of children. Children with Down’s Syndrome are more likely to have fine motor skill difficulties due to cognitive and neural developmental difficulties. They also tend to have shorter fingers making mastering fine motor activities harder. There are lots of fun activities that can be provided to work on the fine motor skill difficulties.
Gross motor skills
An occupational therapist that is skilled in working with children with gross motor skill difficulties will quickly identify what difficulties they are having and where these difficulties are coming from. Once we have identified the issues such as balance, walking, running, or hopping for example, we can provide practical advice, recommendations and treatment as to how to address them.
Sensory integration activities
Children with Down’s Syndrome often have difficulty integrating the sensory stimulation received from the environmental around them to produce appropriate responses. An occupational therapist that is skilled in sensory integration techniques will establish what areas of sensory processing a child with Down’s Syndrome is experiencing and will address them through advice, programme and /or direct therapy sessions.
Attention and concentration
If a child finds focusing on an activity or task for a sustained period of time challenging, they are likely to find the expectations of a classroom environment challenging. Children with Down’s Syndrome will often find concentration and attention difficult skills to master, and a paediatric occupational therapist will help your child develop the skills needed for successful integration into school.