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Causes, Characteristics, and Treatment of Down Syndrome

Dec 06th, 2018 | by Lynette LaScala

Lynette LaScala

December 06th, 2018

NAPA Center is a world-renowned provider of pediatric therapy services. Throughout the years, we have engaged in countless therapy sessions with our friends with Down syndrome. In this blog, we will be examining the characteristics, causes, treatment, and therapy options for Down syndrome.

Down Syndrome Characteristics

Physical Characteristics:

Though each child with Down syndrome is unique, common physical characteristics of Down syndrome include:

  • Eyes with an upward slant
  • Low muscle tone
  • Short neck and small stature
  • Protruding tongue
  • Flat nasal bridge

Developmental Characteristics:

Developmental characteristics include developmental delays, which may range from mild to severe. Such delays include:

  • Delays in gross motor milestones including sitting, crawling, and walking
  • Decreased fine motor skills impacting independence with self-help skills
  • Delayed speech
  • Feeding difficulties which may include picky eating and/or swallowing difficulties
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Difficulty with higher level decision making and organizational skills

Causes of Down Syndrome

Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, is a genetic condition that occurs when there are three copies of chromosome 21 in an individual’s cells, rather than the typical two copies.  It results from an error that occurs following fertilization when cells begin to divide. The characteristics and features of Down syndrome are caused by the extra copy of chromosome 21 being in every cell in the body.

The probability of having a child with Down syndrome can often be predicted before giving birth, with a series of screenings and tests conducted by a medical professional. About 1 in every 700 pregnancies result in a child with Down syndrome. While the actual cause of the creation of the extra chromosome is still unknown, research supports the fact that a mother has a higher chance of having a child with Down syndrome if the delivery occurs after the age of 35.  However, because younger women are more likely to have babies than older women, most babies with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35.

Down Syndrome Treatment Options

There is no medical cure for Down syndrome, however, children with Down syndrome benefit from early access to medical care and developmental interventions beginning in infancy. Beneficial therapies for Down syndrome include physical, occupational, behavioral, and speech therapy.

Physical Therapy for Down Syndrome

Physical therapists assisting individuals with Down syndrome increase strength, coordination, and endurance needed to achieve gross motor milestones such as sitting, crawling and walking. Down syndrome physical therapy sessions challenge the child in a loving environment, challenging them to achieve new developmental milestones. At NAPA Center, we offer both intensive and traditional weekly physical therapy sessions.  

Related Reading: Benefits of Pediatric Physical Therapy 

Occupational Therapy

Using their knowledge of child development, neurology, medical conditions, psychosocial development, and therapeutic techniques, occupational therapists focus on helping a child with Down syndrome master skills for independence. This may include teaching a child to write, eat, play, or dress themselves.  

Speech Therapy 

Speech delay is common in children with Down syndrome. Speech therapists can assist children with Down syndrome with increasing the coordination in their mouth to form words, teach them alternative communication techniques such as sign language to assist and augment with the facilitation of spoken language or use a combination of both approaches.

Related Reading: Benefits of Speech Therapy

Behavioral Therapy

Common behavior concerns for children with Down syndrome include wandering off, attention problems, and compulsive behaviors. Behavioral therapists try to understand why a child is experiencing behavioral concerns, create strategies for preventing these situations from occurring, and teach more positive ways to respond to situations.

What’s Next?

Don’t believe the myths, believe in your child.

If your child has been recently diagnosed with Down syndrome, it is important to find support and access resources.

  • Seek out other families of children with Down syndrome. Don’t be afraid to utilize social media.
  • Utilize support groups in your area such as http://clubtwentyone.org/.
  • Arm yourself with the best team of medical and therapy professionals you can.
  • Contact your state’s early intervention resource center such as https://westsiderc.org/.
  • As members of society, individuals with Down syndrome benefit from loving homes, education, positive public attitudes, and a supportive community environment. 
  • If you are considering NAPA pediatric therapy services, we have private NAPA Parent groups on Facebook for Boston, Los Angeles, and Sydney

We have more resources available for you!

About NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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