Are you the parent of a child with Down syndrome?
Raising a child with this condition can be challenging, but it’s far from impossible.
There are many resources and supports that can help you as a parent and lead your child to a happy and fulfilling life.
If your child has Down syndrome and you’re concerned that their condition may be affecting their speech, there are speech therapy treatments for children with Down syndrome that can help.
Read this article to learn more about Down syndrome, what causes it, and how to support your child in their speech development if they have Down syndrome.
What Is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome, also known as Down’s syndrome, is a condition that causes developmental delays and other disabilities in children.
It can also affect a child’s speech.
Down syndrome occurs when a child is born with an extra copy of their twenty-first chromosome.
Down syndrome is a lifelong condition, but many people with it live full and satisfying lives.
With a better understanding of Down syndrome, you can help your child improve their speech and support them with the challenges that the condition brings.
There are three different types of Down syndrome, outlined below.
Mosaicism happens when some, but not all, cells of the body have an extra chromosome.
People with this particular subtype of Down syndrome tend to have fewer symptoms than those with other types, such as trisomy 21.
With the translocation subtype of Down syndrome, children have a total of 46 total chromosomes, but an extra piece of chromosome 21 is attached.
This subtype does not include people with the full chromosome 21.
Trisomy 21 is the most common form of Down syndrome.
It occurs when there’s an extra copy of chromosome 21 in every cell.
Symptoms Of Down Syndrome
There are many signs of Down syndrome that include developmental, physical, and medical symptoms.
Developmental disabilities are common in those with Down syndrome.
Mental and social development delays may mean that children with Down syndrome can have a short attention span, poor judgment, and may exhibit impulsive behavior.
They may also take longer to learn new concepts than their peers without Down syndrome.
As a result, children with Down syndrome often require speech therapy for learning disabilities.
Physical signs are most present in the head, face, and neck.
They can include a short neck, flat facial features, small head and ears, bulging tongue, and eyes that slant upward.
People with Down syndrome might also have atypically shaped ears and poor muscle tone.
An infant with Down syndrome can be born an average size, but will develop more slowly than a child without the condition.
As a result, children with Down syndrome often need pediatric physical therapy interventions as well.
Various medical conditions often accompany Down syndrome as well.
These may include: congenital heart defects, leukemia, late tooth growth, cleft lip & cleft palate, and hip dislocation.
People with Down syndrome also have weaker immune systems.
They may struggle with respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and skin infections.
How Can Down Syndrome Affect Language Development?
Down syndrome can affect speech intelligibility, or, how easy it is to understand what is being said.
Many children struggle with the strength, timing and coordination of muscle movements for speech.
There are many muscles and systems involved in speech and Down syndrome may affect a child’s ability to coordinate breathing, voice, and the production of speech sounds.
Down syndrome can cause articulation problems with specific sounds, low oral-facial muscle tone, difficulty with sensory processing, and oral tactile feedback.
Down syndrome can also cause children to leave off the final sounds in words.
How Can You Encourage Your Child’s Language Development?
As your child’s primary caregiver, your child interacts with you more than anybody else.
As a result, you can play the biggest role in your child’s speech and language development.
You have the unique opportunity to teach your child communication skills when you’re at home with them.
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to support your child with their language development, check out this list for things you can do.
1. Read To Them
Reading to your child helps your child learn new concepts.
It can also help to show them the text that you are reading, which helps them associate the written word with the sound.
There are many benefits of reading to your child whether they have Down syndrome or not, so crack open a book and get busy.
2. Speak To Them
It may seem obvious, but talking to your child is one of the best ways to help them improve their language development.
The act of talking to your child sets an example for them that they can copy.
It’s also a great way to help your child build their vocabulary as they get to better understand the context of words and when to use them.
3. Repetition Is Key
Repetition helps a child with Down syndrome to learn a word.
Repeating the word is useful for your child when they need to remember what a word means, and what it sounds like.
4. Use Real Objects & Situations
When teaching a concept, you should use daily activities and real situations as much as possible.
For example, teaching a child the names of the foods that your child is having for dinner, or the things that your child can see while you’re playing in the park together.
Having the situation and examples helps the child to link the word with a real-life object or situation.
5. Follow Their Lead
Look out for signs that your child is interested in a particular object, person or event.
When your child shows an interest in that object or person or event, be sure to give them the name of the concept.
Exploring their interest further will present all sorts of opportunities for you to help them develop their speech.
How Can A Speech Therapist Help?
A local speech and language therapist can help support you in improving your child’s language development at home.
As a caregiver, you want your child to be able to communicate with the people around them, and a qualified speech therapist who has experience working with children with Down syndrome can help build those skills.
A speech therapist is familiar with the particular challenges that Down syndrome can cause and is qualified to work with children who have it.
Speech therapists can help your child with Down syndrome to:
- Work around their hearing issues if they have them
- Be able to feed themselves
- Improve oral motor skills
- Build their vocabulary
- Improve reading & writing skills
- And more
A speech therapist can also help put together a plan that meets your child’s speech needs, and suggest exercises for you to practice with them at home.
As with many speech therapy treatments, early intervention is important.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today
If you’d like to know more about Down syndrome and ways to improve your child’s language skills, contact District Speech today to book your first appointment.
At your appointment, you can discuss the challenges you’re having right now with a qualified speech therapist.
Our trained speech therapists will take the time to get to know your child and assess their needs.
They will then work with you to put together a personalized treatment plan.
Book an appointment with District Speech today.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.