Physical Therapy Exercises
Physical therapy exercises are not intended to pressure infants with Down syndrome into crawling or walking before they are developmentally ready. Rather, these techniques are designed to encourage proper body positioning and movement. Parents can also learn methods that help minimize the effects of Down syndrome on infant locomotor development.
Examples of physical therapy exercises for developing locomotor skills are as follows:
1) Assist the child in learning to stand with his or her feet pointed forward and knees slightly bent, with legs and feet directly underneath the hips. This discourages infants with Down syndrome from compensating for their weak muscles by walking with locked knees, wide stance, and feet pointed outward--a gait that can result in orthopedic problems.
2) Encourage the infant to crawl using both knees, rather than moving across the floor on one foot and one knee. This skill is useful as a child with Down syndrome later learns to climb stairs using his or her knees.
3) Facilitate good posture in infants by teaching them how to sit with the spine and pelvis aligned. Young children with Down syndrome often sit with a rounded trunk and tilted pelvis, so physical therapists will need to provide trunk and waist support when helping a child to develop proper body alignment.
4) Motivate the child to crawl or take steps by placing a favorite object or toy in an area that can be easily be reached through locomotion.