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What is Down’s Syndrome?

Down's syndrome or Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects approximately 700 babies a year in the UK. Each person has a unique genetic makeup; this is made up from millions of genes. Genes are found in at the cells in our bodies. The genes contain the instructions required for our development and functioning. The Genes we have are arranged together in groups called chromosomes. Down’s syndrome is caused when a child inherits an extra copy of a chromosome. People with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21 rather than two.

The additional chromosome will cause differences during pregnancy in the way the baby develops. The differences in development include; physical characteristics - the way the baby will look, health problems and problems with the development of thinking and learning skills. Every person with Down syndrome will be affected differently.

Functional fine motor skill exercises to improve independent living supervised by a paediatric physiotherapistAbove: Functional fine motor skill exercises to improve independent living supervised by a paediatric physiotherapist

What causes Down’s Syndrome?

The exact reason or cause of Down syndrome is not known and it can occur in any family. The risk of your child having Down’s syndrome is higher in women that have previously had a child with Down’s syndrome or in women that have a child when they are older. Down syndrome is not caused by anything the mother did before or during pregnancy.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition. Doctors can diagnose Down’s syndrome by checking the number of chromosomes the child has.

What are the characteristics of Down’s Syndrome?

Certain facial appearances are associated with Down syndrome:
  • Eyes slanting upwards
  • Wider than average space between the eyes
  • Small flat nose
  • Small ears
  • Flat back of the head
  • Protruding tongue
Certain physical characteristics are associated with Down syndrome Some medical problems may also occur often in children with Down syndrome, these include:
  • Problems with eyesight
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Congested nose
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Thyroid gland problems
  • Gut problems
Most people with Down's syndrome have a degree of learning disability ranging from mild to severe.

Physiotherapy for Down’s Syndrome

Physiotherapy is often very useful for children with Down syndrome. Babies with Down syndrome will achieve the normal developmental milestones; however it may take longer than normal. Most children with Down syndrome are able to walk by 24 months. Children with Down syndrome often have muscles that are weak and low tone, and lax or unstable joints. These problems can lead children with Down's syndrome to develop the following compensatory movement patterns:
  • Standing with hips in rotated outwards
  • Walking with hips rotated outwards
  • Stiffness in the knees
  • Pronated feet
  • sitting with a flexed spine and tilted pelvis
  • standing with an exaggerated lumbar lordosis (back arch)
These abnormal posture and movement patterns can develop into orthopaedic problems that will affect your child’s level of physical function into their adulthood. Physiotherapy can help children with Down's syndrome avoid developing of compensatory patterns of abnormal movements. These problems can be avoided by the physiotherapists teaching your child the optimal movement patterns so that they can strengthen the appropriate muscles.

Physiotherapy is important during the early stages of your child’s development. Physiotherapy at concentrates on: Physiotherapy treatment for Down’s syndrome includes: Physiotherapy does not fix the problems associated with Down’s syndrome; development will still be slowed. However, physiotherapy can address the unique problems that Down syndrome children are faced with. Physiotherapy helps children with Down syndrome put in place solid physical foundations from which they can best develop.

The physiotherapists at can treat children and adults with Down’s syndrome. As people with Down syndrome age it becomes very important to maintain the health of bones, ligaments, and muscles. Physiotherapy can help increase the quality of life of people with Down’s syndrome by maintaining physical health.

The physiotherapists at have experience treating children and adults with Down’s syndrome. To arrange a physiotherapy appointment call on 0330 088 7800 or book online

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