What is Down syndrome and how speech therapy can help?
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder. It is caused as a result of abnormal cell division. This abnormality gives rise to an extra complete or incomplete copy of chromosome number 21. This means that there is some extra genetic material. Due to this, it causes various developmental changes and visual physical features in an individual with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome presents with a set of associated problems such as
- Lifelong intellectual disability
- Developmental delays
- Learning disabilities
- Sleep issues
- Heart defects
- Gastrointestinal abnormalities
- Ear infections, etc.
Down syndrome varies with severity. Some individuals may be healthy while others may have serious complications. A better understanding of Down syndrome is key to giving them a better quality of life. Early interventions including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc. can significantly improve the quality of life for children and help them thrive as adults. In this blog, we will discuss in brief how speech therapy can help a child with Down syndrome.
Let’s start by looking at some of the common occurring distinct features of Down syndrome.
- Flattened appearance of the face
- Small head size
- Short neck
- Protruding tongue
- Upward slanting eyelids also known as palpebral fissures
- Small ears
- Poor muscle tone
- Short fingers, small hands, and feet
- Excessive flexibility
- Short height
So how can Down Syndrome speech therapy help?
Speech and language therapists play an important role in the management of persons with Down syndrome. Speech and language therapy helps to improve, provide adequate support and develop speech, language, and effective communication skills. In addition, speech and language therapy helps improve difficulties that persons with Downs syndrome may have with skills like eating, drinking, and swallowing food.
Most individuals with Down syndrome will experience speech and language difficulties of variable severities based on comorbidities across their life. These difficulties would ultimately lead to impaired communication skills. According to research, many individuals with Down syndrome often have difficulty pronouncing certain speech sounds. Also, their speech might be quite unclear for others to understand. It is commonly found that children with Down syndrome have delayed speech and language, communication skills when compared to their typically developing peers. Children with Down syndrome are often found to be very social. They have a good ability to use non-verbal communication skills such as facial expressions, gestures, and body language.
Speech and language therapists work on a number of areas of speech, language, and communication. Speech therapy aims to:
- Improve oral motor skills required for speech and feeding
- Improve eating and drinking skills
- Improve receptive and expressive language skills
- Improve overall communication skills
- Improve on speech sound pronunciation
- Improve on overall clarity of speech
- Provide an alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) to facilitate communication and much more
Speech and language therapists provide the best intervention considering various factors such as age, medical conditions, etc. The intervention is individualized for every child. It is specific to the child’s needs and abilities. Speech and language therapists take an individual’s strengths and use them to promote the best speech and language intervention possible.
The speech and language therapist will also work closely with the child’s parents/caregivers. This is important as parents/ caregivers then carry out the home training activities at home. These home training activities are very important to help your child improve their speech and language skills. The speech and language therapist also works closely with other members of the multidisciplinary team to ensure that your child gets the best intervention team support for maximum progress.
Speech and language therapy is highly effective for individuals with Down syndrome. It helps to support, improve, strengthen and develop speech, language, and communication skills. The main goal of speech and language therapy for children with Down syndrome is to maximize each individual’s communication skills to their highest potential. They must be able to use their skills independently across their home, educational, and social environments. Speech and language therapy is a key intervention for children with Down syndrome. Remember, the earlier a child receives speech and language therapy the better the outcome will be for the child to lead a more independent life.
Always consult your child’s Speech-Language pathologist for information about Down syndrome and how speech therapy can help.
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Check out our other blogs: 10 Speech and Language Therapy Tips for Parents – Speech Improvement Center