Dear QST Certified Trainer,
Welcome to our online course! With our Downs protocol, you are moving into different territory than autism. It is no longer a matter of rehabilitating the sense of touch, stimulating the growth of C-tactile fibers, and stimulating the self-regulation milestones. The Downs protocol is much more about traditional Chinese medicine, but translated into ordinary common-sense language to make it easy to share with parents.
Our program for Down syndrome is less well researched in Western medical terms (the studies are smaller in size and number), the Western medical contribution is more in the area of the importance of touch, and brainstem research describing patterns of fight, flight and freeze. The information about diet is incredibly important, and is pure Chinese medicine, and not something you will hear from a pediatrician. I have described the reasons why diet is important in simple common sense language, e.g., the stomach is a muscle, muscles stiffen up when iced; this blocks peristalsis in a weak digestive system and often causes reflux, gastro-paresis, diarrhea, tummy ache and other symptoms – all preventable by giving easy-to-digest food. I think you will be able to promote the program recommendations and be comfortable justifying them in common-sense terms.
The information we give about the importance of the ‘brain freeze’ response in young children with Downs is supremely important, and represents a very up-to-date integration of Western brainstem neuroscience with simple instructions and explanations to parents about how to recognize ‘brain freeze’ – not to incorrectly label it as stubbornness – and how to manage it in a way that addresses it without making the situation worse for the child. Always remember, when the child freezes, they are not being stubborn, they need help getting out of an overwhelming situation.
If at all possible, massage should be given from the time of diagnosis through the first two years of life because it supports the development of strong physical, social and self-regulatory foundations for development. It helps to erase the trauma of surgery and NICU experiences and gives the child a strong new start. It is also important to continue it after age two as a way of de-stressing the child on a daily basis and helping the brain integrate the day’s learning. Everything in our ‘typical world’ is more difficult and stressful for a Downs child than for a typically developing child. The massage erases the stress which builds up in the body and takes it down to zero.
Please help parents organize the child’s routine so that it alternates periods of activity with periods of rest throughout the day – children will learn and grow better with periods of ‘down time’ mornings, afternoons, and evenings.
Results with the massage can be dramatic in the beginning, particularly with motor skills in very young children, or they may not be. You will learn to pay close attention to the ears, but for a different reason. Any deblocking you can do there and improvement of diet, will lead to less mucus, better hearing, and better speech. Learn to watch for the ‘teachable moment’ in the massage, when the child turns to you, faces you, and begins to communicate . . it will be something very simple, like repeating a single word back to them. Keep it low-key and easy for the child. Show the parent.
Because results with the massage are less dramatic, it is important that parents come to understand the importance of continuing the massage long-term, or they will drop it out of the child’s routine. Each parent comes to this decision in a different way, and your sensitive support and long-term involvement help enormously.
Best of luck in helping the children.
Dr. Louisa Silva