Down syndrome. Perhaps you know someone diagnosed with the extra chromosome 21: those irresistible individuals with knowing eyes, loving hands, and huge hearts. So what is behind down syndrome and how can we best maximize the gifts and help with the challenges? Aside from early intervention and special education, can a multisensory room be of help and what are the down syndrome sensory benefits?
A Little Bit About Down Syndrome
Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in 800 newborns. It is a chromosomal condition that is associated with intellectual disability, a characteristic facial appearance, and weak muscle tone (hypotonia) in infancy. All affected individuals experience cognitive delays, but the intellectual disability is usually mild to moderate.
In addition, physical development in children with Down syndrome is often slower than the development of children without Down syndrome. For example, because of poor muscle tone, a child with Down syndrome may be slow to learn to turn over, sit, stand, and walk. Despite these delays, children with Down syndrome can learn to participate in physical exercise activities like other children.3 It may take children with Down syndrome longer than other children to reach developmental milestones, but they will eventually meet many of these milestones.2
Cognitive impairment, problems with thinking and learning, is common in people with Down syndrome and usually ranges from mild to moderate. Only rarely is Down syndrome associated with severe cognitive impairment.1
Body Awareness Is Key to Healthy Physical Development
Individuals with Down syndrome can learn to participate and excel at almost any activity, but their motivation may be lower than average. So it is imperative that they are exposed and encouraged to participate in regular physical activity. For those who are less motivated, a multisensory room can assist as it reduces the extraneous sensory information that may interfere with sensory-motor processing. In a multisensory room, body awareness and position and its relationship to the environment is heightened and more easily learned. For example, if I see a tantalizing light that I want to touch, or an interactive tunnel to crawl through, I may be more motivated to move. Down syndrome sensory products offer more than just sensory skills development but also emotional development.
Sensory Integration Is How We Perceive Our Environment
A multisensory room is a sensory integration nirvana where sound, sights, touch, and smell can be controlled and directed to provide the clearest and most effective sensory diet. For those with slower development, this can accelerate motor skills as well as Down syndrome sensory processing. Learning through touch, sight, hearing, smell, body position, and motion can all help with cognitive development as well as improve endorphin levels and mood.
Motor Planning Can Be Enhanced and Challenged
How I get from point A to point B or how I use a switch to activate a response all require motor planning. A multisensory room can have options for stimulating motor planning such as learning how to activate a switch, or how to engage with lighting, sounds, and touch, all of which can require planning and motor execution. Other activities that are useful for motor planning are slides, ladders, balance beams, obstacle courses, and ball play.
Communication Is How We Say...
At the heart of our development is our need to communicate and this communication can take on a variety of forms. A multisensory room environment can provide several ways to communicate, from touch to microphones to voice to switch activated voice responses. So, for those diagnosed with Down syndrome, this can really enhance speech and communication skills with a secure, safe multisensory environmental approach.
Encouraging an individual with Down syndrome to learn to move, think, and become self-sufficient requires more than just goal setting. It may benefit to provide a space where interaction is self-driven and the environment responds in return. Need assistance with your personal or institutional multisensory room? Want to discuss how it can fit your environment? Reach out to us. We are here to help!