Julia Looper PT, PhD
Background: Children with Down syndrome (DS) experience motor delays particularly with ambulation. Previous research has suggested that a 5 time per week, 8 minute per session protocol for treadmill training (TT) was effective in earlier acquisition of walking.
Purpose: To examine the effectiveness of a home-based 2 time per week, 20 minute per session TT protocol on the development of independent step taking in an infant with DS.
Methods: A 20-month-old boy with DS, underwent a repair for esophageal atresia at 5 months, and currently uses a feeding tube. He was independently sitting and non-ambulatory. Weekly Zoom meetings were conducted to examine the child on the treadmill and administer the weekly questionnaire. The parents were instructed on how to safely hold their child over the treadmill and how to adjust if the child was not taking steps. Modifications to the original protocol were allowed to support completion of the 40 minutes per week.
Results: Results indicated unsubstantial improvements for the gross motor function measure (GMFM) scores and step count but found a decrease in the number and length of breaks. Improvements in crawling speed, stair navigation, environmental exploration, and cognitive development were observed.
Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study examining treadmill training in an infant with DS who had an esophageal atresia repair and now utilizes a feeding tube. The participant’s extensive medical history, limited time of the study, and poor adherence could have impacted the observed results. Further research on optimal dosage is needed.
University of Puget Sound
Ngo, Mary SPT; Paradee, Anna SPT; and Looper, Julia PT, PhD, "Treadmill Training for Infants with Down Syndrome: A Case Study" (2021). Physical Therapy Research Symposium. 68.