Music Therapy Services for Children with Down Syndrome

Development

Children with Down syndrome often develop functional skills at a rate different than children who are typically developing. The National Down Syndrome Society cites the following information on their website:

Milestone

Range for Children with Down Syndrome

Typical Range


GROSS MOTOR

Sits Alone

6-30 Months

5-9 Months

Crawls

8-22 Months

6-12 Months

Stands

1-3.25 Years

8-17 Months

Walks Alone

1-4 Years

9-18 Months



EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE

First Word

1-4 Years

1-3 Years

Two-Word Phrases

2-7.5 Years

15-32 Months


SOCIAL/SELF-HELP

Responsive Smile

1.5-5 Months

1-3 Months

Finger Feeds

10-24 Months

7-14 Months

Drinks From Cup Unassisted

12-32 Months

9-17 Months

Uses Spoon

13-39 Months

12-20 Months

Bowel Control

2-7 Years

16-42 Months

Dresses Self Unassisted

3.5-8.5 Years

3.25-5 Years

National Down Syndrome Society (n.d.). How Can Early Intervention Benefit a Baby with Down Syndrome? Retreived September 8th, 2013 from http://www.ndss.org/Resources/Early-Intervention/.

As you can see in the chart above, developmental delays for children with Down syndrome fall into three broad categories: motor skills, expressive language skills, and social/self-help skills. Although the chart above outlines the broad scope of developmental delays typically seen in children with Down syndrome, it should be noted that an individual with Down syndrome is uniquely an individual with Down syndrome. He or she possesses their own unique set of strengths and delays. For this reason, music therapists carefully take time to assess and document the strengths and delays of each individual with whom they work. The next step involves the music therapist writing therapeutic treatment goals based on the assessed areas of need of the individual.

Therapeutic Treatment Goals for Children with Down Syndrome

Below is a list of typical treatment goals music therapists target when working with children who have Down syndrome:

Gross Motor Skills Objectives

Fine Motor Skills Objectives

Expressive Language Objectives

Receptive Language Objectives

Social Objectives

Cognitive Skills

What Do We Do in Our Session?

Next, the music therapist develops a treatment plan for each individual they are working with based on the identified therapeutic treatment goals from the initial assessment. A treatment plan involves the music therapist designing custom individualized music interventions to address the needs of the individuals they are working with. Below is a list of typical interventions we use with children who have Down syndrome as well as the therapeutic goals they are targeting:

Tips and Strategies for Parents of Children with Down Syndrome

Below is a list of music strategies for parents to utilize outside of music therapy sessions:

Famous Musicians and Individuals with Down Syndrome

Resources for Down Syndrome

Below is a list of resources on the topic of either Down syndrome or using music with individuals who have Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society - The national advocate for people with Down syndrome since 1979.
National Down Syndrome Congress - The country’s oldest national organization for people with Down syndrome since 1973.
An online resource of Down syndrome articles and information
A good article on why music helps facilitate the development and acquisition of language
Resources to help with speech, language, and reading
A great American Sign Language resource
A whole bunch of karaoke versions of popular kid songs
Great apps for children with Down syndrome

Music Therapy Research Bibliography for Down Syndrome

Edenfield, T.N., & Hughes, J.E. (1991). The relationship of a choral music curriculum to the development of singing ability in secondary students with Down syndrome. Music Therapy Perspectives 9, 52-55.

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