Down Syndrome and Occupational Therapy

In honor of World Down Syndrome Day on 3.21.21, we want to shed some light on the role of occupational therapy when working with a child who has Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder resulting in an extra copy of chromosome 21. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common chromosomal condition.”

Often children who have Down syndrome present with low muscle tone. Also known as hypotonia, low muscle tone may impact a child’s ability to meet developmental milestones as it requires more effort to activate muscles to complete an activity as compared to a child with typical muscle tone. Implications of this can affect the way your child is able to engage in play, self-care, education, and social situations. As occupational therapists, we can provide services to increase your child’s participation in these occupations.  

An OT may work with a child who has Down syndrome in early intervention, school-based, or outpatient settings. Early intervention services are provided for children from birth to 3 years old. Occupational therapy services during early intervention focus on foundational skills for meeting developmental milestones as well as encouraging engagement in play activities. School-based occupational therapy focuses on helping children access their educational programs by identifying needed adaptations and accommodations within the school setting as well as providing one-on-one direct services to address fine motor skills if needed. Children with Down syndrome may have difficulties with the ability to sit for periods of time due to poor posture and may have difficulty keeping up with the demands of handwriting skills due to poor muscle tone. Outpatient occupational therapy focuses on family-centered goals for the child to improve participation and function in their everyday life.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, please contact Sidekick Therapy Partners to schedule an evaluation. For more information about Down syndrome, visit the National Down Syndrome Society at:

-Molly Kincheloe, MS, OTR/L



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