How Exercise Physiologists Support People with Down Syndrome

March 14, 2023

At Total Health Physio, we offer caring exercise physiology services to NDIS participants including those living with Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome (DS) is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome. It is associated with intellectual disability, a characteristic facial appearance, and weak muscle tone. All affected individuals experience cognitive delays, but the intellectual disability is usually mild to moderate.

People with Down syndrome have an increased risk of developing heart disease and gastrointestinal disorders.

With Trust, Compassion and Care, we aim to work collaboratively with wonderful clients to achieve their goals!

How Exercise Physiologists Work with People with Down Syndrome to Create Safe & Effective Exercise Programs

The compassionate Exercise Physiologists at Total Health Physio view each person as a unique individual with their own life story.

Our focus is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the person’s life, including their interests, goals, and medical history. After gathering all relevant information, we collaborate with the client to create a safe and personalised exercise plan that aligns with their desires and goals. The objective is to always create a program that is appropriate and relevant to the individual.

At the initial consultation:

  • The Exercise Physiologist may use a subjective questionnaire to gather information from the client.
  • Next, they would perform assessments of overall strength, range of motion and cardiovascular endurance
  • They may delve into more specialised assessments of specific muscle groups or functional ability
  • Then set goals in collaboration with the client
  • Discuss the ongoing management plan

Educating Individuals With Down Syndrome And Their Caregivers About The Importance Of Regular Physical Activity

Initiating education on the significance of regular physical activity begins with understanding the individual’s perspective and attitude towards exercise. Collaboration and self-determination are crucial for motivation.

For individuals with Down Syndrome, the physical activity recommendation is the same as for the general population, which is at least 180 minutes of moderate activity per week. When planning an exercise programme, this goal should be encouraged based on the individual’s starting point.

Most individuals with Down Syndrome receive some form of support, such as family or assisted living with support workers. They may also live in a house with others, such as Supported Independent Living Accommodation (SIL). Family and support staff should be included in education around exercise, health and well-being.

Education is part of the holistic, multidisciplinary approach from Total Health Physio.

Exercise Physiologists Work with Other Healthcare Providers to Coordinate Care for Clients

Our Exercise Physiologists work closely with other healthcare providers by communicating through phone calls/email/ care meetings to coordinate care for individuals with Down syndrome, and to ensure everyone involved is working toward common goals.

Our Exercise Physiologists often have shared clients with the Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists from Total Health Physio, optimising collaboration and goal setting with the client and other involved practitioners.

Our Exercise Physiologists will refer to other health professionals to help their clients reach their goals. They will often work with Total Health Physio Occupational Therapists when they identify needs, such as requirements for assistive technology or home modifications; such as improving bathroom accessibility.

Working with a team of healthcare professionals helps to provide the best care for the client.

We also work with Support Coordinators to ensure the client is accessing and receiving support in line with their NDIS funding.

Communication and Building rapport

To communicate effectively with any client, including those with Down Syndrome, our EP’s take the approach of asking the client about themselves and their interests, such as their favourite music, TV shows, idols, pets, sports and activities.

This information helps our EPs build rapport, for instance, we had a client who loved Abba music and loved to listen to it during our sessions. Once the music was on, she opened up, was engaged and participated with a smile on her face.

By incorporating what people like into the sessions, we aim to increase client engagement and happiness, how great!

Considering Comorbidities

As mentioned, people with Down syndrome have an increased risk of developing heart disease and gastrointestinal disorders. It’s crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of their health and identify specific considerations before they participate in an exercise program.

It is therefore important to gather information from carers, support workers, and treating GPs or other specialists. It may be recommended to measure blood pressure and heart rate before, during, and after exercise.

Interactions with medications also need to be considered, as many medications have side effects.

To manage cardiovascular disease, incorporating aerobic activity under the guidance of a qualified Exercise Physiologist, can be beneficial.

Should People Attend Group or Individual Exercise Physiology Sessions?

Both are beneficial, but with a personalised approach!

Group exercise for people with Down syndrome should involve a custom program designed by a trained health professional, taking into account their individual needs, health conditions, and other factors.

This way, they can exercise with a group while following their own program, getting the appropriate results for them whilst also experiencing socialisation.

For long-term benefits, both individual and group therapy are recommended.

What are Examples of Goals Between an EP and a NDIS Participant?

Goals should be meaningful to each participant and achievable.

Examples of meaningful goals are:

  • To improve their balance for walking on uneven surfaces.
  • To have enough endurance to go shopping and return home.
  • To have enough strength and range of motion to reach to the top cupboard for grabbing a tea bag or a snack.

Do You Know Someone Who’d Benefit from Exercise Physiology Services?

Our caring Exercise Physiologists are mobile across Melbourne and are qualified to work with those living with disability such as Down Syndrome.

  • We are university trained and registered with ESSA
  • Total Health Physio are an Australian owned company, founded in Melbourne in 2011
  • We are kind, caring and compassionate
  • We are NDIS registered

To make your enquiry, please use our contact page, we’d love to hear from you.