One of Matthew's goals for the next 12 months is to develop the skill, balance and coordination needed for walking down stairs holding the rail only. His current method is to crawl down backwards. While he can walk down a single 5-inch step without my assistance (see blog entry "All By Himself On A Single Step"), he needs one-hand assistance when walking down a series of steps, especially when they're more than 5 inches high. That is, until 4 days ago when he wanted to walk down the stairs holding the rail without my help.
In Patricia C. Winders' book Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome, tracks gross motor milestones based on her observation of 154 children with Down syndrome. "Walks down stairs marking time holding the rail" is #39 on her list and is described as "facing forward, holding the rail with one hand and the other at his side, he steps down with one foot and then brings the other foot to the same stair." data for this particular milestone was available on 50 of the children in the sample. The average age when children achieved this milestone was 40 months. 68% of the children achieved it in 30 to 50 months of age. 95% of the children achieved it in 20 to 60 months of age.
In Sue Buckley and Ben Sacks' article "An overview of the development of infants with Down syndrome (0-5 years)," children with Down syndrome walk down stairs with help between the ages 24 to 60+ months, with the average age being 36 months. Typically developing children achieve this milestone between ages 13 to 24 months, with the average age being 17 months.
So 4 days ago, Matthew walked down the stairs holding the rail, taking one step at a time (marking time). He did it all by himself in a very controlled manner. I was in front of him the whole time, taking pictures and ready to assist in case of a mis-step. He reached the bottom of the stairs with a big smile as I gave him a big hug and high fives. He was so proud of himself. And so was I.
The more practice he gets with this emerging skill, the better he will get at walking down stairs. It will get easier as he grows taller too.
Other similar gross motor milestones he needs to work on are walking up stairs one step at a time holding the rail and walking up and down stairs holding the rail alternating steps. He'll get there - one step at a time.