Jacob, a child with Down Syndrome, enjoying a family holiday and browsing in shops, like any other 5 year old child wouldJacob looking at books and watching TV at age 6 years - Down Syndrome doesn't stop normal development, but social attitudes do. - Jacob, a baby with Down Syndrome - Jacob at one year of age

Teaching and Training People with Down Syndrome or other Developmental Disabilities to Walk.

CONTENTS:  1… Using the treadmill to develop walking in kids with Down Syndrome and;  2… Developing walking using Dolphin Therapy in kids with Down Syndrome.  NEW SECTION:  3… Questions and answers for those developing walking skills in kids with Down Syndrome.

On average kids with Down Syndrome start walking at two years of age, which is about 12 months late.

1… The Treadmill Approach to develop walking in Down Syndrome kids.

Some interesting work has been done by a chap called Dale Ulrich and others, from the Michigan University.

Depending on the nature of a kid’s disability, it is possible the treadmill treatment will have application to include more than those with Down Syndrome. As it is, it enables kids with Down Syndrome to start walking three and a half months earlier that what they normally would.

The researchers believe they can start teaching kids with Down Syndrome to walk from 11 months of age using the treadmill (11 months is when the genetic patterning for walking becomes accessible).

They also believe that motor development from birth should be emphasised, so as to minimise the developmental delays in motor development.

When mobility is limited, the kid’s interaction with the environment is also restricted, so the kid is effectively getting very reduced learning opportunities. You need to be mobile – crawling or walking – to go after the pet cat, climb on top of a brother or sister, play with the tv or dvd or vcr buttons, explore the back yard or even the room the kid is in.

With Down Syndrome, walking delays and crawling delays are expected because of the typical Down Syndrome hypotonia – muscle tone problems, the excessive joint movement they normally have and, I would add, possibly balance problems stemming from ear infections – glue ear.

So, getting the Down Syndrome or the developmentally delayed kid mobile is a priority to increasing the kid’s stimulation, and social and learning opportunities. Something I think we all agree on is very important for our kids with disabilities, like Down Syndrome.

When the kid is able to sit unsupported, the walking treatment is normally able to be commenced:

  • One parent supports the kid under the arms so that the kid’s feet were resting on the tread mill belt, while the other parent sits on a small stool in front of the kid to position their feet correctly and provide encouragement to the kid.
  • The treatment was once a day, five days a week, for several weeks, with the treadmill set to slow.
  • Each treatment session required the kid to walk for eight minutes in total each day.
  • If the infant required a rest at any time, they were given a one minute break, before proceeding with the treatment.
  • Eventually, all of the infants are able to do eight consecutive minutes of treatment on the treadmill without rest.

Wish we had been able to access this information when Jacob was 11 months old.

2… Dolphin Therapy to Develop Walking in those with Down Syndrome:

Some parents are using dolphin therapy interaction in an attempt to rectify or lessen the disability.

They contend that dolphins, when exposed to humans with disability, can identify they are different and emit sounds at levels which may be therapeutic to the individual with the disability.

It will be interesting to see if this group can come up with any long term lessening of any disability – some parents are quite adamant that this therapy almost immediately achieved outstanding results, such as being able to walk for the first time, or develop speech.

Perhaps the novelty of the situation contributes as well to the successes.

3… Walking questions and answers for people with Down Syndrome

Hi, just wanted to say i love your wed site.  I have 3 children all with special needs … Dora [name changed for confidentiality] has downs syndrome, and she is the easiest by far!!!! have found out so much info on your site, but the only thing i cant find anywhere is about weight bearing on legs, Dora is 17 mths and does no bearing on her legs, she has been sitting since 10 mths but dont seem to get crawling, she does have hypertonia in ankles knees and hips but cant seem to find anything about what i should expect in the crawling walking dept?!!! many thanks for your help, have to say, what a gorgeous family you have x 

You have your hands full, that is for sure.  If you have time, you might like to consider the treadmill approach to develop walking.  Thre treadmill approach has been found to be good with kids with Down Syndrome.
To answer your question. Two years is when kids with Down Syndrome start walking on average, but not doing any weight bearing is the bit I’m not sure about.  Sitting may use the legs.  Crawling behavior at all?
I would guess things are going to normal for someone with Down Syndrome, BUT a physiotherapist may help alot more and diagnose any problems that may exist.
That would be my suggestion – have a physio assess her pre-walking skills.
All the best

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