By Natan Gendelman, D.O.M.P
Learning to stand, and eventually walk, is a major achievement in a child’s progress. Each step is important, and whether or not a child has Down syndrome or another condition, properly preparing him for the steps to come will help prevent compensatory movements that may hinder his function in the future. To avoid these from occurring and to best move a child forward in his development, here’s a few things to keep in mind in regards to a child’s treatment. Ultimately the goal is to assist a child in learning to perform everyday functions for himself, by himself.
1. Know the importance of trunk control
From my standpoint and experience, developing a child’s trunk is very important. Since the trunk acts as the pillar which supports the movement of the limbs and head, when left unaddressed a child may develop compensatory movements that will be more difficult to correct later on in life. For children with Down syndrome, this can be an issue as they often have hypotonic trunks. When steps are not taken to make improvements in this case, it can start a vicious cycle of irregular movements that carry through every aspect of a child’s daily function.
2. Work from the ground up
As mentioned earlier, the importance of trunk control can be seen once a child begins moving. My standpoint has alway been that, when working with kids, walking and standing are meant to be a child’s last developmental milestones. Before a child can take his first few steps, he will need to have gone through the stages of learning how to roll, sit, and crawl. I call this “working from the ground up” because the strength he acquires comes from activities and functions a child learns while he is still on the ground. Each milestone builds on the ones before it, and the muscle tone and movements he acquires in the process will play an important role in his future development. Only then can a patient be taught how to successfully stand and eventually learn how to walk.
As my final advice to anyone whose child is moving through developmental milestones: I suggest that you be patient, and resist the urge to try and help your child perform functions before he is ready. Whether or not he is experiencing extra challenges along the way, you and your child will still need to go through the same steps–it just may take longer. While this may take more time for some than others, be sure to stay optimistic, believe in your child, and look forward to what he can accomplish in the future.
About the Author: Natan Gendelman, PT
Natan Gendelman is licensed as a physical therapist in Russia and Israel. After moving to Canada, he was certified as a kinesiologist and osteopathy manual practitioner. Natan has more than 20 years of experience providing rehabilitation and treatment for conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, pediatric stroke and acquired brain injury. He is the founder and director of Health in Motion Rehabilitation, a Toronto-based clinic whose main objective is to teach their patients the independence necessary for success in their daily lives.