OT is one of the health professions concerned with evaluating and treating patients from different age groups who have problems in performing their jobs and their daily activities,
whether these problems are caused by any illnesses, injuries, physical disabilities, psychological disabilities, developmental or behavioral disorders. OT aims to elevate the health of individuals and groups through various methods of treatment which includes beneficial activities, therapeutic exercises and tools, assistive technology devices, these methods work together to increase the autonomy of the patients and enable them to perform their daily functions and rehabilitate them. (Jordanian Association for Occupational Therapy)
Occupational therapy mainly aims to increase the autonomy of people with
Down syndrome in the following areas:
Self-care skills (such as eating, dressing, caring, General appearance, personal hygiene etc).
Gross and fine motor skills.
Cognitive skills (including pre-writing skills).
Play skills that are appropriate with the child’s developmental age.
The golden period of learning which is the first five-years of the child’s life is considered really crucial, therefore starting occupational therapy from this age is valuable to maximize the benefits for the child. The intervention process begins with assessing the child’s skills, abilities and identify the strengths and weaknesses, so then the occupational therapist can develop a treatment plan to treat the child and reduce weaknesses in order to help the child reaches the highest levels of independence.
At this point the occupational therapist may participate in:
1. Dealing with feeding problems related to the movement of the mouth muscles, such as laxity and weakness in cheeks, tongue and lips muscles, consequently, it complicates the breastfeeding process in children with Down syndrome. Hence, the occupational therapist suggests better bodily positions and methods of feeding.
2. Help to facilitate the development of basic features of the child’s physical movement, specially, fine motor skills.
3. The occupational therapist also works closely with the physiotherapist
to help the child with his developmental milestones for the gross motor skills (
Such as sitting, crawling, standing, and walking). Also, the occupational therapist elevates the child’s fine motor skills by strengthening the arm and hands movements.
4. Some people with Down syndrome have problems in processing different sensory inputs such as (Tactile, Vestibular, proprioception, vocal, visual, olfactory) which might lead to problems in their occupational skills and might hinders their performance of daily activities.
When the child reaches his pre-school age, the child is trained to move independently and explore his environment, and this could be a result from providing him/her with opportunities that enhance the learning process and help develop the autonomous skills in performing the daily activities such as eating, wearing clothes, playing, interacting appropriately with other children and improving his overall motor skills.
In this stage, the occupational therapist may interfere:
1. to Facilitate the development of fine motor skills-
In this stage a child with Down syndrome might begin to develop his fine motor skills. By improving his hands and arm movement, but in many cases, the child needs occupational therapy to support his motor developmental skills. Children with Down syndrome can improve their fine motor skills by playing (coloring, opening and closing objects, picking and unlocking games of all shapes, sizes, piling and building manipulating and pressing the game button, and many more). A child with Down syndrome may face some additional challenges when learning fine motor skills as a result of muscular dystrophy and lack of flexibility in joint ligaments or because of the small size of hands.
2. Promote the beginnings of self-care skills
A therapist can help parents see progress and meet their expectations by simplifying skills and teaching them how to train their child. The occupational therapist can also suggest suitable positions for the child and provide suitable equipment for the child, such as using a specific dish or spoon when eating. These recommendations and suggestions might help the child to adapt to his condition better and enable him to be self-sufficient as much as possible.
• Entering the school stage:
When a child enters school, we help the child to adapt to the new habits, attend school meetings and plan educational programs for the child, and focus on discussing and communicating.
Help the child practice fine motor skills (such as writing).
Believe in the child’s ability to have future development and independence in activities.
Find extracurricular activities that would expose the child to a variety of social, educational and material experiences.
In this stage occupational therapy has many purposes such as:
– Facilitating the development of fine motor skills in the classroom by providing typing and writing courses and classes
– Environmental assessment (Such as table height, etc) to help the child adapt better to the school environment
– Create an educational program based on the child’s different abilities.
• Work stage:
Study and evaluate the capabilities of the individual with Down syndrome and find their preferences in work and search for the suitable and appropriate careers and work environments.