It’s hard to predict how a child with Down syndrome will develop mentally and physically—every child is different. Usually, however, we see a slower development of gross and fine motor skills. Your doctor will ask questions and evaluate the child to see how they’re doing. Often, physical therapy—along with other therapies—is used to help a child with Down syndrome progress. In this article, we’ll discuss how Down syndrome affects gross and fine motor skills and how physical therapy can help.
What Are Motor Skills?
Before we discuss how Down syndrome affects gross and fine motor skills, we need to understand what motor skills are. Gross motor skills involve the large muscle groups and the movement of the whole body. Walking, standing, kicking, and running all use gross motor skills.
Fine motor skills, on the other hand, use smaller muscle groups and more intricate movements. Grasping a pencil and tying shoes require fine motor skills.
Doctors analyze both types of motor skills as children grow to evaluate their developmental progress.
Down Syndrome and Motor Skills
A child with Down syndrome is likely to develop both gross and fine motor skills at a different rate than a child without Down syndrome. Certain common characteristics of Down syndrome may inhibit or slow the development of these skills:
- Ligamentous laxity, which is the looseness of ligaments, causes an increase in flexibility in the joints and a decrease in muscle strength.
- Hypotonia is a condition causing low muscle tone in children with Down syndrome.
Thankfully, most children with Down syndrome are eager to push their motor skills to the limit, as they want to do what others are doing. Even with the aforementioned characteristics, physical therapy and support from others usually help a child with Down syndrome use their motor skills efficiently.
There is a downside to an active and anxious child with Down syndrome who pushes themselves: they often overcompensate, which can lead to painful feet and, sometimes, incorrect walking patterns.
As we mentioned, physical therapy is an important part of the process of helping children with Down syndrome improve and develop their motor skills. Working together with a doctor, a physical therapist uses special exercises and equipment to help a child develop and successfully use their gross and fine muscle groups.
Many other therapies are helpful in the life of a child with Down syndrome, including occupational, recreational, and speech therapies.
At Chariot Innovations, we believe in improving the lives of those with Down syndrome with a combination of therapies, including Down syndrome physical therapy. We developed the MiraColt™ for the use of hippotherapy, which takes inspiration from the natural gait of a horse to improve strength, balance, and overall well-being. Contact Chariot Innovations and see how we can improve the motor skills of children with Down syndrome.