Down Syndrome in Adulthood: The Role of Physical Therapy

By: Kate Bellucci PT, DPT, MSCS, Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome (DS) and it is the most common chromosomal disorder. The life expectancy for persons with DS has increased significantly over the past 60 years and has therefore provided us with the joy of seeing many persons through adulthood. Each person with DS has different abilities and physical therapy can play a role in his/her/their life from birth through adulthood.

Teenagers and adults with DS are more prone to obesity, poor posture, balance impairments, decreased strength throughout extremities, coronary artery disease, early onset osteoarthritis/osteoporosis, diabetes, and an overall more sedentary lifestyle. Each of these can be treated, delayed, or even avoided by an active lifestyle and exercise program. That’s where physical therapy comes in!

A physical therapist is able to evaluate strength, balance, cardiovascular endurance, muscle tone, ligament laxity, posture, gait, and any aches and pains. Based on this information, the therapist and patient will work as a team to develop a comprehensive exercise and lifestyle plan in order to provide the tools to lead a healthy, fulfilling, and functional life. Athletes can also be evaluated to develop regimented exercise programs specific to their sports. A person’s needs will be ever-changing and therefore establishing a relationship with a physical therapist from birth through adulthood is recommended for the most optimal physical functioning throughout a person’s lifetime.

Kate Bellucci PT, DPT, MSCS

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist

LSVT BIG certified

Phone: 973-322-7389


Kate is a physical therapist at Barnabas Ambulatory Care Center. She primarily treats patients with neurological conditions and patients with gait, balance, and endurance impairments. Kate completed her bachelor’s degree in science at Michigan State University in 2014 then went on to complete her doctorate in physical therapy at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 2018. She was granted the Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Scholarship from the Consortium of MS Centers in 2019 and became a Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist and an LSVT BIG certified therapist in 2020. She serves as a member of the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Professionals and the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. She is from Somerville, NJ and still resides there with her husband Eric and puppy Lilly. They look forward to welcoming a new baby boy to the world in February 2021! When she is not working you will find her walking her dog downtown, spending time with family and friends, or reading on her porch.

The Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center Rehabilitation centers are open and ready to help you achieve your goals. With four locations in West Orange, Millburn and Livingston, the experienced and compassionate staff at Cooperman Barnabas Rehabilitation offers adults and children the specialized care they need to resume an active life after surgery, injury or illness. They are committed to providing patients with the most advanced services in a safe, caring and soothing environment. For high-risk patients who are unable to visit in person, telehealth is an option. Patients do not need a prescription for physical therapy services.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 973-322-7500.