Fort Myers ABA Therapy for down syndrome kids

“Fort Myers ABA Therapy for Kids with Down Syndrome? I Thought That Was Just for Autism?”

When parents of children with down syndrome are referred to Fort Myers ABA therapy, their initial response is often, “Wait, I thought that was for autism?”

It is. But it’s also proven extremely effective when incorporated into the treatment plans of kids with other special needs – especially down syndrome.

Certain challenging behaviors common among children with down syndrome are very similar to those displayed by children with autism. These behaviors, left untreated, can impede progress with academics, socialization and independence – blocking their path to realizing their full potential.

Good news for Florida parents of children with down syndrome: ABA therapy coverage is mandated for them, this month marking two years since the legislature agreed this, along with early intervention speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy should be guaranteed for children diagnosed with down syndrome.

The Florida mandate – House Bill 221, codified in and amendment to F.S. 627.6686  – helps families and individuals with down syndrome access effective, science-based therapy without having to mount a massive fight with your health insurer.

This mandate was critical because while down syndrome isn’t new, erroneous notions on the limitations it imposes have been tough to shed. Policy in government, schools, workplaces and insurance markets has slow to adapt, with habilitative services sometimes viewed as “a waste.”

Our Fort Myers ABA therapists know that couldn’t be further from the truth (an assertion soundly backed not just by a few anecdotes, but federal data and decades of peer-reviewed medical and intervention therapy research). We’ve seen time and again that with intensive early intervention and support services throughout their formative years and to varying degrees beyond, most people with down syndrome can independently live rich lives of love and purpose. Many are able to work with limited accommodations, get their driver’s license, live on their own, finish high school, pursue continuing education and vocational opportunities, develop lifelong friendships and get married.

(Check out this down syndrome FAQ page on the Canadian Society for Down Syndrome’s page, full of video clip Q-and-A’s by people living – and thriving – with the condition)

How Will a Therapy Developed for Autism Help My Child With Down Syndrome?

The goals of Fort Myers ABA therapy for children with down syndrome isn’t curative, it’s habilitative. Down syndrome is a congenital condition, not a disease or something to be “fixed.” It’s a condition that unequivocally poses challenges, but those can often be significantly minimized with early intervention therapy.

FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapy involves the use of consistent positive reinforcement to address challenging behaviors, particularly when they are hindrance to developmental goals, safety, health or interpersonal relationships.We’ll work daily with specific short-and-long-term goals to help kids develop new skills, shape and refine existing abilities and decrease behaviors that are socially significant.

Consider also: A growing number of children with down syndrome also have a dual diagnosis of autism. In fact, researchers at Stanford University report children with down syndrome have a 25 percent higher chance of developing autism than their typically-developing peers.

Diagnosis of autism for a child with down syndrome is very often delayed because of overlapping symptoms or broadly attributing certain behaviors or traits to down syndrome when they are in fact an indicator of autism. That’s one reason pursuing early intervention ABA therapy for children with down syndrome is a smart move. Your FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapist might even alert you to the distinct early signs of co-occurring autism, allowing you to access a higher level of private services and/or school accommodations via IEP.

Down syndrome on its own is associated with numerous challenging behaviors, including:

  • Task refusal
  • Elopement
  • Attention problems
  • Aggression
  • Self-harm
  • Stereotypy/repetitive acts/compulsion
  • Rigidity

Many of these same behaviors are present in children with autism too, and ABA can help manage both.

One study in the journal Down Syndrome Research and Practice detailed a handful of case studies of children with down syndrome, each showing marked progress with intensive ABA therapy. Methods include the antecedent strategy (identifying triggers and limiting/averting them), positive reinforcement (excessive praise for good behavior rather than penalties for bad) and the token system (using the child’s biggest motivators to compel appropriate behavior/limit those that are challenging).

A compassionate, skilled ABA therapist at FOCUS  can discuss these strategies with you in further detail, outlining the specifics that may work best for your child’s unique needs.

FOCUS offers pediatric behavior therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Addressing challenging behavior in children with Down syndrome: The use of applied behavior analysis for assessment and intervention, 2006, Journal of Down Syndrome Research and Practice

More Blog Entries:

Fort Myers ABA Therapy Still “Gold Standard” as “Autism Reversal” Study Shows Promise, Dec. 14, 2018, FOCUS Fort Myers ABA Therapy Blog

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