The Jacob’s Ladder perspective for children who have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome looks beyond the diagnosis to the whole child. As all children present with differing levels of functioning, we assess each child at their current level of functioning.
The Jacob’s Ladder Methodology harnesses the premises of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change based on the input and stimulation it receives. Jacob’s Ladder places a high value on getting a child down on a mat and working through developmental milestones that may have been missed. Activities such as belly crawling, creeping forward on hands and knees emphasize a cross-lateral pattern that are part of traditional developmental milestones. Cross-lateral movements require movements on one side of the body to be completed in opposition to the other side of the body. This harmonious movement reinforce the connections between one side of the brain and the other; connections that were not present are formed and connections that are present are refined. Cross-lateral movements are a foundational premise of the Jacob’s Ladder Methodology and play a role in determining the connectivity in the brain. Gross motor patterning sets up the foundation for learning by developing interhemispheric connections and communication.
Children with Down Syndrome may also present with muscle tone irregularities, typically with global hypotonicity. Instead of looking at tonicity as a muscular concern, Jacob’s Ladder views it as a neural concern. Muscles receive the message to contract or relax based on the signal from the nervous system; tight tone muscles are receiving this message on a consistent basis and muscles with low tone do not consistently receive the message. By working to develop an organized neural pathway from the brain to the muscles in a normalized manner, we can address muscles tonicity at it base function.
Additionally, research has shown that early primitive reflexes play an integral role in developmental disorders. Primitive reflexes develop before birth, directly following birth, or during the first month of life in direct relation to experiences, movements, and stimulation that is received. Primitive reflexes encompass 72 automatic movements that are directed from the brain stem and require no cortical involvements. If these reflexes are not wired, function attributed to the midbrain and forebrain will not follow. As children with a Down Syndrome diagnosis typically have difficulty with learning and speech delays and motor development, the integration of early reflexes is important.