Tag Archives: sports

How Physical Therapy Supports Children with Down Syndrome

By: Joanne Pygon, PT, MS, PCS

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in helping a child who is diagnosed with Down syndrome (DS) reach their highest potential.  What that therapy looks like through a child’s life changes as he/she transitions from newborn to teenager.  Hypotonia, weakness, cardiac and respiratory issues are some of the challenges a PT will address.

0 – 24 months:  The physical therapist (PT) is one of the first healthcare professionals to work with a parent and their child to help build a strong foundation of strength and movement.  Depending on the medical complications a child faces, the PT works regularly with the child to build strong muscles so he/she doesn’t develop compensation that can affect their abilities later.

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The parents or caregivers will have activities to work on daily to help their child reach gross motor milestones.  The child may need special braces for their feet to improve alignment so that muscles can maintain length to function efficiently.

Compression garments such as a SPIO, Benik or an abdominal binder, may be considered to aide postural alignment and respiratory function.  Aquatic therapy can be beneficial if a child enjoys the water.  This gives him/her an opportunity to be challenged in new and fun ways, while also building strong swimming skills and an enjoyment of water for future exercising.

2 years – 5 years:  During the preschool years physical therapy continues to address higher level gross motor skills.  It may be appropriate for a child to be involved in group therapy sessions where peers motivate each other, along with providing social and communication opportunities.

Easterseals has groups like Mighty Movers, Build Your Muscles, Build Your Brain (TAAP), Get in the Game and more that enhance a child’s gross-motor skills. Most children start in a school program upon turning 3 years old.  PT is provided in the school to address issues that interfere with academic success.  This might be enough therapy for a child or the parent may choose to continue private therapy depending on the child’s needs and goals.  If the child has orthotics (foot braces), then a PT should be following the child periodically to check for fit and continued need.  During this time, families can explore park district programs in their area, especially gymnastics classes or swimming in order to build balance, strength and coordination.

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5 – 10 years:  Throughout these years, a child involved in community-based programs could seek PT consultations.  Some children may enjoy a summer PT group to build strength and confidence such as our rock climbing group.  Biking can also be a great opportunity for fitness and socializing.  There are several “learn to bike” programs in the community and a PT can help a child develop this skill.  Many children become involved in swimming and this becomes their life long fitness.

Jake mom machine.jpgTeenage years:  Encourage physical fitness, which is important for any teenager or young adult. Hopefully as the child faces the challenges of being a teenager, they have confidence in their abilities and can continue to be a part of a sport community, like a swim team, running group, or special rec team.  The child may need to check in with their PT a bit more to update home programs, as growth may affect their posture.  While braces may not be needed anymore, foot inserts may be necessary to support his/her feet in the best possible position.

 

Most importantly, set high expectations and enjoy all the gifts children bring to families!

For more information on our Down Syndrome services, visit http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/downsyndrome.html.  To get started or learn more, call us at 630.282.2022.

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Throw Like A Pro

By: Cassidy McCoy PT, DPT

Baseball season is back, and summer is almost here, so let’s get out and get playing. Since Chicago is now home to the World Series Champions, here are some pointers to get your kids throwing like the pros.

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Initial Position

1. Face the side so your non-throwing arm is facing the target.

2. Using your elbow or fingertips, line yourself up so you are pointing directly at the middle of the target.

 

 

baseball blog 1The Throw

1. The Wind Up: Bring your throwing arm up so your elbow is bent at a 90 degree angle and is in line with your shoulder. The majority of your weight should be in your back foot.

2. Step forward with the leg opposite your throwing arm (toes pointed forwards) as you begin to bring your arm forward gradually shifting your weight into the front foot.

3. The Release: Should occur as your arm comes over your head, slightly higher then the forehead.

 

The Follow-Through (End Position)baseball blog 2

  1. The majority of your weight should be in your front foot, with the heel of your back foot, or the entire foot, lifted off the ground.
  2. Your arm should fully move diagonally across your trunk ending at the hip/leg opposite of the throwing arm, with your trunk rotated so your shoulder are facing forwards (towards the target).

Visit our website for a list of summer community based therapy programs such as Physical Therapy to work on the fundamentals of sports, emphasizing coordination, timing, physical fitness and fun! Click here for more info.

Why Swimming is a Great Sport for Children and Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Photo by Joann Hartley
Photo by Joann Hartley

With April being Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to shed some light on providing physical fitness to children and adults with autism spectrum disorders.  According to the newest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 US children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  As an aquatic therapy instructor, I have seen tremendous improvements in physical fitness level, behavior and survival skills in children with autism in the aquatic environment.  Here are some reasons why children and adults with autism thrive in the aquatic setting.

  • Swimming is a life-saving skill. Because children with autism have an increased rate of wandering off, drowning in a near-by lake or pool is a concern.  Swimming incorporates techniques such as floating and treading water so a child would be able to get out of a potential life-threatening situation.
  • Water provides an excellent sensory experience. The resistive and buoyant properties of water make it a very calming environment for children with autism.  Undesired behaviors are often reduced in the aquatic setting and children are more grounded by the water.  Even children that have aversions to textures such as grass and sand will likely feel more at peace in the water.

    Photo by Julie Hermes
    Photo by Julie Hermes
  • Swimming is an excellent aerobic activity. Children with autism are at a higher risk for obesity.  According to a report published in the July-August issue of American Pediatrics, at least one in every three children and adolescents with autism is overweight or obese.  Getting children moving is key, and if they are in an environment they can enjoy, such as the pool, the easier it is to motivate them to get their bodies working.
  • Because many children with autism have difficulty with motor planning and coordination, swimming is a great way for children with autism to work on activities such as: reciprocating both sides of the body, timing of breathing, core and extremity strengthening. These skills transfer well to land-based activities such as throwing, catching and running.
  • Swimming is social! Often times, jumping in the water or swimming the length of the pool can help induce talking in children that are limited verbally.  Kids can also learn a lot from watching each other and can encourage them to try a new skill in the water.

If a more structured swim team would be too much for your child, look into aquatic therapy. The physical and occupational therapy teams at Easter Seals provide aquatic therapy for children with special needs twice a week at local pools.  Please call Easter Seals at 630-620-4433 for more information.

References:

Broder-Fingert S. et al. Acad. Pediatr. 14, 408-414 (2014) PubMed

American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.aap.org

 For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.