Early Physical Therapy Important for Children with Down Syndrome

APTA provides free resources on World Down Syndrome Day.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, March 21, 2013 — World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated globally on March 21 to raise awareness about the genetic disorder that affects approximately 1 in 700 babies born in the United States each year. To honor this day, the APTA has created resources for parents of children with Down syndrome (DS), explaining the importance of physical therapy in facilitating their child's growth and development to enable them to function at their best throughout all the stages of life.

"Low muscle tone, decreased strength, increased movement at the joints, poor balance, posture difficulties, feeding problems, and poor hand use often delay natural development in children with DS," explained APTA member and board-certified pediatric physical therapist Venita Lovelace-Chandler, PT, PhD, PCS. Today on Move Forward Radio at 11:00 am, ET, APTA is hosting the segment, "Down Syndrome and the Role of Physical Therapy." Lovelace-Chandler will discuss how physical therapists help children with DS develop gross motor skills in order to achieve important developmental milestones. These skills can include, but are not limited to, head control, sitting, crawling, postural control, standing, and walking.

Treatment for DS is still evolving, but recent research suggests that strength, balance, and cognitive function are 3 factors that influence physical development. While the abilities of children with DS can differ vastly in these areas, Lovelace-Chandler says that physical therapists play a key role in helping children develop strength and balance, adding, "the earlier your child begins physical therapy, the better the outcomes."

In later childhood and early adulthood, people with DS may develop other conditions such as obesity, poor cardiovascular health, thyroid dysfunction, skin disorders, depression, and difficulty learning tasks that require more complex movement. Physical therapists are able to work with the family and other health care providers to reduce or prevent these conditions.

APTA also offers the "Physical Therapist's Guide to Down Syndrome" on MoveForwardPT.com—a free, comprehensive guide about DS, how a baby's development might be affected by DS, what to consider when looking for a physical therapist, and how a physical therapist can help your child.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 85,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at www.MoveForwardPT.com. Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@MoveForwardPT) and Facebook.

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