Dravet syndrome is a serious form of epilepsy. Symptoms of this disease include serious seizures accompanied by fevers that generally start in infancy. These seizures usually do not respond to standard anticonvulsant therapies and can be triggered by stressful situations and high body temperature. Symptoms such as ataxia (difficulty standing and walking) as well as muscle tremors are also common.
Because the seizures start very early in life, developmental delays in speech and movement are common in children with Dravet syndrome. Speech therapy and physiotherapy can help to minimize these developmental delays, giving patients a chance for a better quality of life.
Children with Dravet syndrome may be slow in learning to speak; they may also show signs of aphasia (difficulty in comprehending or producing speech) or agnosia (inability to interpret sensory information, such as speech). Speech therapists can work with patients to develop language skills, starting with children, ages 2 to 3. However, it is important not to put too much pressure on the children, as stress can trigger seizures.
Physical therapists can help patients improve mobility and coordination through various approaches, including stretching, exercise, and skills development. Several studies have indicated that exercise can reduce the number and severity of seizures, in addition to reducing stress and improving overall health and well-being.
The main focus of physical therapists in working with Dravet syndrome patients is to improve their day-to-day balance, and their ability to walk and perform tasks. Helping a child to be able to brush his or her own teeth or dress alone can do much to improve self-confidence and life quality.
It’s important to development for children to be able to play and interact with their peers. Physical activity can also reduce depression and anxiety by stabilizing signaling in the brain, of importance to patients with epilepsy. Physical therapists can also assist parents and caregivers in learning how best to help their child with play and everyday tasks.
Although studies have noted that more exercise can improve cognition in patients with epilepsy, a concern is that exercise as a stressor may induce seizures. Working with a physical therapist can help patients build physical strength and an ability to play with a greater sense of safety and less risk of a stress trigger.
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