Down Syndrome Speech Treatment

The primary concern when treating individual children with Down syndrome for their speech and language impairments is to identify the neuron-developmental problems and treat each problem individually.

Many speech impairments can be addressed by treating the symptoms however, children who have Down syndrome must have the neurological problems addressed first. Treating the symptoms only will set the child up for problems and most likely failure.

Down syndrome children typically have problems in both speech and language. Speech is the ability to pronounce words clearly, where language is the ability to put words together and to communicate effectively. Both of these areas are problems for children with Down syndrome.

Cornerstone of Communication

Language is the cornerstone of communication for the Down syndrome child. Before the child can speak words correctly, he or she must first have words to speak and know how to use the words to communicate. The ability to communicate through language is developed through the ability to hear language.

Children with Down syndrome have a difficult time hearing tones so it is important to asses the hearing abilities and determine the degree of tonal hearing impairment. Once the physical reasons for the tonal impairments are recognized and treated, language therapy can begin in the child.

The physical defects that cause tonal impairment include a short Eustachian tube, slow tube drainage and chronic inner ear infections and fluid build up. These problems are routinely addressed in children with Down syndrome.

Oral Motor Defect

Oral motor defect is the primary cause of speech difficulties in the child with Down syndrome. These children typically have weak oral muscle tone, poor tongue control, tongue thickening, high palates, enlarged tonsils, and poor lung capacity that can all delay their speech.

These defects may not all be able to be corrected but they can be addressed and the child can be taught to speak in ways that “by-pass” these developmental problems.

Sign Language

There has been a lot of research in recent years regarding children with Down syndrome and sign language. There have been many successful cases of children with Down syndrome learning sign language and being able to communicate effectively before the physical defects that delay speech and language are remedied. This enables the child to ultimately communicate at a near normal level.

Sign language has the ability to accelerate speech and language learning for the Down syndrome child as well as to open doors to communication in the child with defects that cannot be overcome. Sign language can allow these children to communicate in a world where in the past they would not be able to speak or understand language.

There are many factors that determine the rate at which children with Down syndrome progress in their speech and language development. It is important for the parents and teachers to understand that slow progress in the child does not mean the child has little or no potential for learning. Parents need to work to provide their Down syndrome child with every learning advantage in order for the childs full potential to be realized.