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Physiotherapy and gentle massage can begin as soon as baby is well enough in hospital or comes home. Babies with Trisomy 13 and 18 clench their fists in a characteristic way and a physiotherapist can demonstrate the correct way to give the baby gentle massage and stretching exercises.

Chest physiotherapy assists in the prevention of chest infections, and a good seating position from a few weeks old will improve head control and aid mucus drainage. Parents can learn how to use a suction machine if needed.


Some hospitals encourage massage with unscented massage oil to which a few drops of an essential oil such as orange blossom or lemon has been added, but it is essential to consult the pediatrician or physiotherapist before starting any treatment.

Play Therapy and Toys

Physiotherapists can show parents how to stimulate their babies. For eye development and co-ordination, silver paper or shiny bells can be moved slowly across in front of baby for the infant to 'track'. Mobiles are beautiful to watch and music or bells are interesting to listen to.

A baby may not reach for a toy immediately but by holding it in front of baby, rattling and turning it for the eyes to follow, placing it in baby's hands - they will begin to experience 'play'. 

A Child Development Centre can offer regular 'play stimulation and physiotherapy' when baby is about 6 months, but much can be done before that, at home by the parents and visiting therapists. Hydrotherapy is an excellent means of stimulation, and fun therapy for stiff muscles and limbs.

Sex Education

Sex is often regarded as a taboo subject, and parents sometimes find it difficult talking to their children about relationships and sexuality - particularly when a child has a physical disability or needs constant care. 

The following resources may help you with these discussions.

  • Contact a Family has produced three guides for young people, parents and professionals. Download a copy of Growing up, sex and relationships from their resource library.
  • FPA works directly with people with learning disabilities in schools and other settings such as supported living accommodation and day centres. You can buy copies of their publications for people with learning disabilities from the fpa website.

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