Renowned expert Patricia C. Winders shares her views

on the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado and her hopes for children with Down syndrome

Down Syndrome World
This article is an excerpt from Down Syndrome World magazine, a publication of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. To receive Down Syndrome World, become a member of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation today at

Pat Winders

Described by her colleagues as “the most respected person in the field of Down syndrome and physical therapy,” Winders belongs to a passionate team of experts and empowers thousands of children with Down syndrome. Winders, Senior Physical Therapist and Director of Therapies at the Sie Center, is a kind, patient, yet no-nonsense sort of expert. The author of “Gross Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals (Second Edition),” she has often been quoted on her philosophy: “Physical therapy is a critical service, not because it will accelerate a child’s rate of development, but because it will improve a child’s long-term functional outcome.”

Winders, who has been with the Sie Center since it opened, recently spoke about her dream job.

Q: What were your plans when you came to the Sie Center?

A: I was excited to work with a comprehensive multi-disciplinary team of professionals dedicated to children who have this condition. The vision of Anna and John J. Sie created the opportunity to have this level of collaboration of clinical care specialists to provide the best care for the children and to do clinical research.

Q: Tell us about the care team.

A: Everyone here is a professional who has chosen to specialize in working with children who have Down syndrome. When we come together to focus on one child from our varying areas of expertise, the difference we’re able to make is enormous. Improving patient outcomes through a team effort is really the future of providing total care for children with disabilities.

Q: How do you approach your specialty, physical therapy?

Pat Winders

A: People who have Down syndrome can expect to live into their 60s, and they will need bodies that allow them to be active for that lifespan. As physical therapists, we help each child develop the body she will need as an adolescent and then as an adult. We focus on building strength, an optimal posture, and refined walking patterns. From birth to age 5, we teach gross motor skills such as rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, running, jumping, riding tricycles, and stair climbing. We want to help them develop that foundation and then use their bodies to do what they choose to do and what they love to do.

Q: What atmosphere have you created at the Sie Center?

A: We want it to be joyful. We don’t force children to practice skills if they are upset or not interested; we offer a different toy or propose a new activity they are motivated to do. We want to set them up to be successful learners. The physical space is beautiful, too. Our large motor room has a rock climbing wall and plenty of space for crawling and walking. Everybody’s eyes widen when they see it. One child stopped in the door and exclaimed, “Awesome!”

Helpful Tips from Patricia C. Winders

From “Down Syndrome Quarterly”

Follow the child’s lead

The child must be motivated to perform a particular skills. Trying to impose your will on a child with Down syndrome is a losing game. I often try to model my style of interaction after the parent’s. It is familiar to the child and most likely to be successful.

Be strategic in providing support

Children with Down syndrome tend to become quickly dependent on support. Provide as little support as possible while still allowing the child to succeed and remove the support as soon as possible.

Contact the Sie Center at 720-777-6750.

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