Advanced therapy methods are creating new hope for children with disabilities
For kids with developmental delays or mental or physical conditions associated with a likelihood of delays, physical, occupational and drug therapies can help improve cognitive, motor, communication and sensory skills. These therapies focus on enhancing development and minimizing delays — depending on the goals of each family and the needs of each child — to help them lead fulfilling lives.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that early intervention services and programs provide assistance in a patient’s natural environment within activities and routines of each family’s typical day. From drugs to PT and OT, new pediatric therapies are bringing hope for children with special needs.
Improved Cognition for Down Syndrome Patients
Children with Down syndrome can lead fulfilling and happy lives through the discovery of how a third 21st chromosome affects the brains, bodies and behaviors of those with Down syndrome. The research points toward hope for drug therapies that improve patient cognition. Researchers took 15 brains from deceased individuals of all ages with Down syndrome and found that trisomy 21 affects myelination and oligodendrocyte differentiation, in which the extra chromosome lowers protective myelin production in the brain.
They also discovered that a typical brain and one with Down syndrome experience differences that occur throughout life. Intervention may occur at different windows throughout life to provide relief. Clinicians are already testing drugs that increase myelin production with success in those with diseases like multiple sclerosis, and doctors can intervene during childhood and teenage years to help improve cognitive function.
Aquatic Therapy Helps Children with Sensory and Locomotion Challenges
Joe and Kate Lundgren’s two boys were both diagnosed with autism in the late 90s, one with Asperger’s syndrome and the other with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). As an occupational therapist, Kate eagerly dove into researching the conditions with her husband to develop treatment plans for their boys based on her experience and research.
They opened the clinic in 2013. It’s called Cutting Edge Pediatric and Adult Therapy (CEPT) and is based in Allen, Texas. The clinic specializes in kids with special needs, sensory integration dysfunction and spectrum-related disorders.
They recently added aquatic therapy with an underwater treadmill system that helps their clients develop fine motor skills and increasingly deal with sensory stimulation safely. Buoyancy decreases impact on the joints, and the water also reduces dependence on cues visually resulting in proprioceptive system reliance that generates kinesthetic challenges for the kids. The treadmill helps create a more consistent gait as well. Other forms of OT, PT and speech therapy give the children well-rounded treatment at the clinic.
A New Drug for Autism Granted FDA “Breakthrough” Status
The Swiss pharmaceutical company earned the breakthrough drug therapy designation earlier this year to push through balovaptan that could vastly improve core social communication and interaction in those with autism. Only the drugs aripipazole and risperidone have FDA approval to treat irritability, but no drugs exist for treating autism’s core symptoms. That’s changing, as results from clinical trials revealed success in mediating social behaviors in adults, and additional studies are underway for children.
Balovaptan presents early promise for those with ASD, and the breakthrough therapy designation helps the drug to arrive safely and more quickly on the market.
Parents may struggle to understand their child’s diagnosis or delays and how it affects their day-to-day life. They only want what’s best for their loved one, understandably, but parents also struggle with how these therapies may change what makes their child unique as an individual. Therapies offer ways to help enhance development and prevent delays, but parents may question if treatments intrinsically change someone to make them fit into a social norm rather than be who they are and love themselves.
Still, delays get in the way of children interacting with their peers in ways that can often help them feel more fulfilled. The right kinds of therapies are not designed to change a child, but to open up opportunities to enhance their development and help them interact more in the world.