October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to celebrate the many achievements of our friends and family members with this condition.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what Down syndrome actually is, it is a genetic condition that results in an over production of chromosomes at birth. This often causes several health concerns and disabilities, such as intellectual disability, short neck, flat face and/or low muscle tone. However, there are several support groups for individuals and their family, and people with Down syndrome lead productive and happy lives.
When rearing a child with Down syndrome, parents face the challenge of teaching their children how to eat and drink properly. This task is made more difficult because of the child's low muscle strength and control, and because children with Down syndrome usually learn new skills at a slower pace than other children.
Speech language pathologist and blogger Jennifer Bekins has written that she is a big fan of "open cup drinking." Open cup drinking refers to using a regular cup as opposed to sippy cups or other adaptive cups. Bekins says that training with regular cups when the child is old enough will help them acquire an important daily activity skill, while the overuse of sippy cups, although sometimes necessary, may reinforce infant oral habits of sucking as opposed to pouring and swallowing.
Preventing aspiration is key
The important part of training children with Down syndrome in drinking liquids is to try to prevent aspiration that may occur due to liquids flowing into the children's airways. This problem is known as dysphagia. Read more about it here.
While practicing open cup drinking is important, Bekins says that sometimes it is beneficial to use sippy cups and other assistive devices.
Cups, mugs and straws
For more ideas for adaptive devices for drinking, check out our cups, mugs and straws page, which features a wide range of products from nosey cups to straw lip blockers. These aids can help people with a variety of daily needs and can help ensure that the person is hydrating sufficiently even when the action of drinking may be physically challenging.
Here's to an exciting and informative Down Syndrome Awareness Month. For more information and resources on Down syndrome, visit the National Down Syndrome Society's website.
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