Purpose: To describe the implementation of a pool-based exercise program for young children with Down syndrome.
Description: This provides a description of an aquatic based program for children with Down syndrome which facilitates transition to a community swim program. Aquatic therapy and swimming are the modality to facilitate fitness in this population. The program is comprised of an introduction to the pool, swimming skills and endurance and strengthening exercises with the goal of eventual transition to a community pool. This provides the basis for a standardized description of aquatic exercises for children with Down syndrome.
Summary of Use: An 8-week group-based exercise program was developed that included aquatic skills, water acclimation, fitness activities, and caregiver instruction. A pre and post-participation assessment package was developed which included the establishment of goals and standardized assessments including the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM), a survey of aquatic experience, and the Water Orientation Test Alyn (WOTA-1). The pool-based exercise program was piloted with eleven children between the ages of 1 and 5 years with caregiver participation. The group aquatic therapy program was stratified by age. Interventions consisted of respiratory control, water orientation, swim skills, balance training, trunk strengthening activities, and standing and walking skills. Instruction in safe and effective handling strategies in the pool promoted caregiver confidence and carry over in the community. Data will be presented regarding post-participation surveys and parent's perception of their child's confidence, strength, and improved social skills after completing the program. In addition, GMFM and WOTA data will be presented.
Importance to Members: The development of a standardized aquatics program that can be evaluated in patients with Down syndrome will be presented. This is an important step toward the establishment of effective treatment strategies. Swimming has the potential to be a safe and effective way to promote lifetime physical activity for individuals with Down syndrome. The aquatic setting is particularly motivating for children with Down syndrome; however, caregivers often feel unprepared to safely assist their children in swim activities, limiting participation in community programs. Here we present a standardized program which can be implemented in the clinic with carryover to community-based participation.