Physical therapy helps baby with Down syndrome learn to dance
BY JAMES NEWTON email@example.com | @JimNewton5 October 10, 2013 5:20PM
Brady Dejong of Waukegan with his physical therapist, Pam Lasky of Athletico Physical Therapy, who is helping the 1-year-old overcome some of the physical complications of Down syndrome. | Photo submitted
Updated: November 12, 2013 6:02AM
Birth to age five can be the most critical time to provide developmental intervention therapies for children with Down syndrome.
A Waukegan couple added pediatric physical therapy to the usual mix of speech and occupational therapy and have been amazed at the results they have seen in their 15-month-old son, Brady DeJong.
They credit much of Brady’s improvement over the past several months to the work of Pam Lasky, a pediatric physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy in Highland Park.
“She is just wonderful. She loves Brady like an aunt,” said Brady’s mother, Meghan DeJong. “He’s making such great strides. It’s incredible.”
DeJong said Lasky has honed in on Brady’s personality and tailored his therapy to things that would hold his interest, such as music. “He loves music, and she has incorporated a lot of that into therapy.”
Lasky said she noticed Brady’s love of music and enjoys working with it.
“Brady is the best dancer,” she said. “He has an incredible musical interest. He likes to get down.”
It may be fun, but it’s definitely not all games. Children born with Down syndrome often have extremely low muscle tone, and physical therapy can help them build strength to address that challenge.
As a newborn, Brady didn’t have the strength to latch on to his mother while nursing.
Now he is taking steps, and Lasky said “walking is absolutely right around the corner.”
Physical therapy in general assists with improving coordination, strength, confidence with age appropriate activities, and balance control.
Lasky said that children with Down Syndrome have “excessive hyper flexibility or mobility in their extremities and spine.” Education to parents is key in protecting their child’s joints and improving the strength around them, she said.
Physical therapy is a part of a team approach to rehabilitation that also includes an occupational therapist for fine motor skills such as feeding and dressing, a speech therapist for general speech, swallowing, and feeding techniques, and developmental therapists for meeting appropriate age milestones, Lasky said.
At Brady’s six-month assessment by an Early Intervention team, he was found to be 35 percent off of the normal developmental scale. At his 12-month assessment, that gap had closed to 20 percent.
Lasky said it’s just part of a job she loves.
“I have a fond love for working with children and he is just a special treat,” Lasky said.
Meghan and her husband, Brad, didn’t realize Brady had Down syndrome until he was born, but they have adapted quickly. They adopt Lasky’s techniques into their work and play at home with Brady, and are teaching him sign language because Down children can have trouble with speaking. They are also preparing him for early childhood programs that begin at age three.
“He’s really a good-natured little boy. I’ve enjoyed the whole process,” Meghan said. “It’s been different than we expected, but everyone experiences that with their first child anyway.”