Purpose/Hypothesis: Properties of water such as buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, and fluid resistance when utilized with aquatic exercises have been shown to have a positive impact on ROM, strength, proprioception, core stability and gait. Previous literature has shown these improvements in children with Cerebral Palsy, SMA Type II, and Developmental Coordination Disorder, disorders that present with similar impairments in children with Down Syndrome. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine the impact of aquatic therapy on children with Down Syndrome.
Number of Subjects: 9
Materials and Methods: Ten children aged from 2-8 years old, with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome and any level of swimming ability were eligible for this study. Each child received 1:1 (student therapist: child) therapy sessions, with some children requiring a 2:1 ratio. Prior to aquatic intervention, each child was assessed using the Pediatric Balance Scale (PBS) and the WOTA-1. For 8 consecutive weeks, each child received personalized interventions lasting about 45 minutes based upon their needs such as balance, gait, strength, and coordination. After the 8-week aquatic intervention sessions, each child was then re-assessed with both outcome measures.
Results: The study began with ten participants with nine completing the 8-week program. The results of this study showed that children with Down Syndrome will have improvements in balance, strength, and coordination. Eight of the nine children exceeded the MDC in their WOTA-1 scores. On the PBS, all exceeded the MDC and seven of the nine children exceeded MCID, making the change relevant to the child and family.
Conclusions: The use of aquatic physical therapy for children with Down Syndrome displayed qualitative and quantitative improvements in gait, balance, strength, and coordination. Using individualized treatment plans, each child was able to improve in each of the aforementioned areas.
Clinical Relevance: This small study demonstrates that children with Down syndrome can gain functional benefits from aquatic therapy similar to previous research in children with hypertonia. As physical therapists, we need to be aware of how aquatic therapy can benefit different subgroups of children so that we can refer and treat as appropriate in order to give children the best functional outcome.