Down syndrome (DS), also called Trisomy 31, is a genetic condition in which extra genetic material in the cells leads to delays in childhood development – mentally and physically. The medical conditions and physical features of the disorder vary wildly from person to person. If your child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, you’re probably overwhelmed by the diagnosis and struggling to do what’s best for your child. As there is no set outcome for children with Down syndrome, much of the future can feel like a mystery. You don’t have to go through this alone; the compassionate staff at Ascent Children’s Health Services is ready to provide you with the therapies and support you need for your child.
Why Seek Treatment For Down Syndrome?
Children who have Down syndrome tend to share classic features – a flat facial profile, upward slanted eyes, smaller ears, and a protruding tongue. Many children have hypotonia or poor muscle tone, and while this does improve over time, most children with Down syndrome reach their developmental milestones, such as crawling and sitting up, later than other children. Other children may have challenges with learning and some experience significant medical problems that require continuous care.
When a child is diagnosed with Down syndrome, most parents are very afraid of what the future may bring for their child. As the condition affects different people in different ways, it is impossible to predict what lies ahead for your child. You may be terrified of the worst, always on edge, unable to relax for even a moment. You may scour the Internet and libraries, looking for more information about your child’s syndrome as you simply wait and see what will happen. You’re not alone – approximately one in every 800 babies born in the United States has Down syndrome.
If your child is diagnosed with this condition, you may have a list of specialists and interventions you should be working on with your child. This can feel overwhelming and impossible to manage for even the most adept parent. Seeking therapy from a clinic that offers specialized care from a multidisciplinary team of leading experts in Down syndrome may be the best option for you and your child. An outpatient clinic that offers a day program for children with Down syndrome that houses a variety of therapeutic and supportive services under one roof may be the best way for you and your child to grow and overcome some of the obstacles you’re facing.
Our Philosophy and Benefits
At Ascent’s treatment center in Arkansas, we understand how challenging a time this must be for your family. A diagnosis of a chronic condition with variable outcomes can be frightening to cope with and may leave you wondering what to do next. We provide a multidisciplinary team of audiologists, neuropsychologists, behavioral therapists, nutritionists, occupational therapists, nursing staff, physicians, psychologists, therapists, social workers, early intervention childhood specialists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Our philosophy is based on the realization that each family who comes to us for help is unique and each child in our care is their own individual with different needs, wants, and hopes. We work hard to increase the emotional, social, physical, and cognitive development of all children we work with while instilling a sense of independence and hope in their recovery. This is how Ascent is able to provide the most appropriate, effective level of care needed.
Treatment Options for Down Syndrome at Ascent Children’s Health Services
Experts in the field recommend that children who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome seek early intervention services as soon as possible. The early education experts and physical, occupational, and speech therapists at Ascent’s treatment center will be able to encourage your child and accelerate his or her development. When your physician refers you to our center for treatment, your child will first undergo a variety of tests given by specialists in their field. Our team of qualified staff will administer a number of evaluations so that we can get a bigger picture of what areas are in need of specialized focus and attention. You and your child will then sit down with our treatment team to discuss our findings and decide upon an appropriate treatment plan for your child.
Medical: Our developmental pediatricians will be able to perform testing on your child to determine the presence of any medical conditions that require monitoring or care and coordinate with other care practitioners to make certain that they receive the medical care required. You may work with other pediatric physicians such as a pediatric cardiologist to rule out any cardiac or pulmonary problems. All children with Down syndrome should be regularly evaluated by a pediatric cardiologist.
Audiology: Many children with Down syndrome struggle with hearing problems related to fluid build-up in the inner ear or structural problems with the ear itself. Your child will undergo regular evaluations with our audiologists to make certain there are no changes in your child’s hearing while in our care. These evaluations are needed to detect and correct any problems with hearing before it causes problems with communication, learning, and speech.
Physical Therapy (PT) involves activities and exercises that can help children who have Down syndrome to build motor skills, increase muscle strength, and improve balance and posture. PT is especially important early in a child’s life as physical abilities lay the framework for other skills to develop. Our physical therapists can also help your child overcome physical challenges associated with the syndrome, such as poor muscle tone, to avoid long-term problems from developing.
Occupational Therapy (OT) can help your child find ways to adjust to everyday activities that match your child’s needs. OT can help a child with Down syndrome learn self-care skills such as getting dressed, writing, using a computer, and eating. In order to help learn these skills, an occupational therapist may offer tools that can increase your child’s independence, such as using special silverware that is easier to grip.
Speech-Language Therapy (ST) can help children who have Down syndrome to improve their ability to communicate and their communication skills and encourage the effective use of language. It’s been found that children who have Down syndrome often speak at later ages than their peers, so our speech-language therapist can help your child to develop the early skills needed for communication, such as imitating sounds. This will, in turn, improve the muscle tone in the face and allow your child to breastfeed. Our speech therapists can also teach your child, who desperately wants to communicate with you, other ways of communication before they can speak, such as sign language and pictures. ST can also help people with Down syndrome learn to properly control the muscles of the face and neck to chew food, swallow properly, and make certain that nothing is aspirated into the lungs.
As a holistic treatment center, Ascent Children’s Health Services in Arkansas proudly offers other therapeutic interventions designed to meet all the needs of your child. These may include:
- Sensory rooms
- Therapy gyms
- Handwriting Without Tears
- Nutrition and meals
If you feel that your child is in crisis, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Continuing Care and Levels of Treatment
At Ascent Children’s Health Services, we are proud to offer a spectrum of therapeutic interventions designed to provide all levels of care to children. Our Child Health Management Services (CHMS) offers a day program and an outpatient program to children who have medical and developmental delays. Our Rehabilitate Services for Persons With Mental Illness (RSPMI) also offers a day program and an outpatient program for children struggling with mental illness and other challenges. During the summer, we offer a summer program for school-aged children and we offer school-based programs for children who may need mental health care through the school system.
Every year, your child will undergo the same assessments that he or she underwent at the beginning of treatment to determine how your child is responding to therapy as well as to determine if he or she is still eligible for services. If it has been determined that your child no longer requires our services, we offer a formal discharge transition process to make sure there is a set plan in place when it’s time to discharge from our treatment center. Children may discharge from our day program to outpatient therapy or from outpatient therapy into school-based programs. Whatever your child’s needs may be, Ascent Children’s Health Services is ready to help.