As a parent or caregiver of a child with Down syndrome, you might be wondering how you can help improve their quality of life.
Have you considered speech therapy?
At New Horizons Wellness Services, we provide speech therapy for kids in Tigard Oregon and frequently work with children with Down syndrome to improve their communication skills – something with which they often struggle.
A speech therapist can work with your child to improve several aspects of their language and communication skills, including:
- Oral motor skills
- Expressive and receptive language
- Social pragmatics and social language skills
- Eating and drinking skills
- Emerging language skills
- Speech sounds
- Alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) methods
Occupational therapy for Down syndrome can also help – we’ve written about our pediatric occupational therapy approach in the past.
But today, let’s take a closer look at speech therapy and how it can help children with Down syndrome.
What Is Down Syndrome
Affecting 1 in 700 babies, Down syndrome is the most common genetic disorder in the United States.
The syndrome develops when a baby is born with an extra copy of their 21st chromosome.
The physical symptoms of Down syndrome can include:
- Flat facial features
- Small head and ears
- Short neck
- Bulging tongue
- Eyes that slant upwards
- Atypically shaped ears
- Poor muscle tone
Additionally, individuals with Down syndrome often experience:
- Developmental delays
- Impulsive behavior
- Limited self regulation
Down syndrome often causes various lifelong disabilities that may increase the risk of congenital heart defects, leukemia, and dementia.
Nonetheless, individuals with Down syndrome can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
Different Types Of Down Syndrome
Depending on how the condition develops, Down syndrome may be categorized into one of three subtypes:
Mosaicism develops when a baby is born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome in some, but not all, of their cells.
This type of Down syndrome typically results in fewer, milder, symptoms.
Trisomy 21 develops when a baby is born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome in all their cells.
This is the most common type of Down syndrome.
Like people without Down syndrome, babies born with translocation have a total of 46 chromosomes.
However, one of their chromosomes has an extra piece of chromosome 21 attached to it.
What Causes Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is caused by atypical chromosomal development in utero.
During pregnancy, the genes of both parents are combined to create cells for the developing fetus.
Typically, each cell holds 23 pairs of chromosomes – half from each parent.
In children with Down syndrome, one of the chromosomes fails to separate properly and, instead, creates an extra partial copy of the 21st chromosome.
This extra copy causes problems for the development of your baby’s brain and physical features.
The reason why all this happens is not currently known, though we do know there are certain risk factors that can increase your chance of having a child with Down syndrome, including:
- Being pregnant over the age of 35-40
- People with a family history of Down syndrome
- People who carry the translocation gene
Does Down Syndrome Affect Language Development?
It’s common for individuals with Down syndrome to experience impaired language and communication skills.
For example, your child might struggle to produce certain speech sounds or create speech that is difficult to understand.
Additionally, children with Down syndrome typically experience developmental delays in their speech, language, and communication skill development.
Subsequently, they often rely on non verbal communication skills, such as facial expressions and gestures, longer than their peers.
How Can You Help Your Child With Down Syndrome Develop Their Language Skills?
Now that you’ve read all about Down syndrome and its causes, let’s take a look at some speech therapist approved tips for helping your child with Down syndrome develop their language skills.
1. Speak To Them, A Lot
All children learn to speak by watching the adults around them talk.
Therefore, it’s important to speak to your child as much as you can to get them used to language.
2. Read To Them, A Lot
Reading picture books to your child can help them learn the names for common objects and how to pronounce them.
Additionally, reading can help to teach your child simple grammar and language skills.
3. Repeat Things Several Times
Repetition is helpful in getting your child to remember certain words and phrases.
You can make repetition games to make learning fun for your child.
For instance, having a race with your child while repeating “Run, run, run!” can help them associate the experience of running with the word “run”.
4. Let Them Take The Lead When It Fits
Your child is more likely to learn when they are motivated by activities that they enjoy.
Therefore, it’s important to focus on your child’s interests and try to incorporate those interests into communication exercises.
For instance, if your child has a favorite toy, you can use that toy to play with your child while repeating the name for the toy.
5. Reference Tangible Situations And Objects
Referencing and labeling common situations and household objects can help your child learn the meaning of words.
For instance, saying “You are eating your animal crackers, animal crackers are your favorite snack” can help your child associate the words “animal crackers” with the experience.
How Can Speech Therapy For Down Syndrome Help?
In addition to at home communication exercises, speech therapy can help.
The main goal of speech therapy for kids with Down syndrome is to improve, support, and develop your child’s speech, language, and communication skills.
In addition, a speech therapist can work with your child to improve their eating, drinking, and swallowing skills.
There isn’t a single therapeutic method used for all children with Down syndrome.
Instead, your child’s therapy will be individually catered to their needs and abilities and
One of the most common forms of speech therapy for children with Down syndrome is augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
AAC utilizes compensatory and supplemental methods to increase communication skills in children who struggle with verbalizing language.
Rather than forcing verbalizations, AAC encourages children with Down syndrome to communicate in whichever method best suits their needs.
There are a number of different AAC options, including:
- Sign language
- Modified signs
- Facial expressions
- Computer software
AAC has shown to provide numerous benefits for children with Down syndrome, including:
- Improved language development
- Increased confidence in communication
- Increased ability to form social bonds and relationships
Book Your Appointment With New Horizons Wellness Services Today
At New Horizons Wellness Services, we know how overwhelming a Down syndrome diagnosis can be.
We want to help you and your child navigate their diagnosis, improve their communication skills, and increase their self confidence.
Book your appointment with New Horizons Wellness Services today.
Yours in Health,New Horizons Wellness Services
13333 SW 68th Pkwy,
Tigard, OR 97223
New Horizons Wellness Services provides a true multidisciplinary approach to mental & physical health treatments for children, adults and families.