Down Syndrome and other Congenital Syndromes

Down Syndrome and other Congenital SyndromesMaia_Summer_2008-5

Infants and children who have been diagnosed with a Congenital Syndrome such as Down Syndrome are usually referred for ongoing therapies at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC).

Physiotherapy through Action Potential Rehabilitation may be indicated when:

  • Your child is on a waiting list for physiotherapy at OCTC
  • Your child would respond better being treated at home
  • It is difficult for you to transport your child to therapy appointments
  • Your child would benefit from Pool Therapy
  • Your child requires more frequent therapy than is currently available
  • Your child is not eligible to receive physiotherapy services from OCTC (Quebec resident or school-age child)

Children with Down Syndrome typically have physical characteristics such as lower muscle tone (decreased readiness for movement), ligamentous laxity, and shorter limbs, which impact their ability to acquire gross motor skills. They tend to develop compensatory movement patterns which may impair their ability to walk or run. Children with other Congenital Syndromes may present with similar features, especially lower muscle tone, depending on the condition.

Early physiotherapy can help to develop more appropriate movement patterns, strengthen weak muscles, and develop functional skills such as sitting and crawling. Your child’s physiotherapist will work closely with you to teach you the optimal way to hold and move your child, and help them develop the movement skills that they need.

In seeking physiotherapy treatment for your child with a congenital syndrome, it is important that you inquire as to the background and training of the therapist to ensure that they have expertise in treating children with developmental disabilities. Physiotherapists used to working with children with developmental disabilities are knowledgeable about re-education of movement, treating altered muscle tone, and improving balance and gait.

The paediatric physiotherapists at Action Potential Rehabilitation have worked extensively with infants and children with congenital syndromes such as Down Syndrome. They have taken many specialized courses in treatment approaches such as NeuroDevelopmental Treatment (NDT), Medek, and Bobath. They also have training in techniques such as Kinesiotaping and Myofascial Release, which can be beneficial adjuncts to Hands-on Physiotherapy. Our therapists are familiar with paediatric equipment (standers, gait trainers, adapted tricycles, theratogs, AFO’s etc), and current best practices in physiotherapy for children.

Our paediatric physiotherapists are well aware of the medical complications associated with many syndromes. Given the frequency of associated immune suppression, they are very careful with handwashing and toy cleaning when treating children. They understand the impact that GERD (reflux) can have on a child’s development, and can help you recognize the subtle signs of reflux and its implications. Through direct hands-on treatment and activity suggestions for parents, your child’s physiotherapist will help to guide your child’s development and improve the efficiency of their movement.



This website provides general information about our services and various conditions. It is not intended to be used for self-assessment or treatment, and is not a substitute for an individualized treatment plan developed by a registered physiotherapist.