Communication Concerns in Down Syndrome

The development of effective communication skills is an integral part of cognitive and social success for all individuals; and no less so for persons with Down syndrome. Nearly all individuals with Down syndrome experience some degree of difficulty with linguistic development. Most frequently encountered are problems involving grammar, expressive language, phonology, and articulation. Grammar may prove especially difficult for children with Down syndrome to master. It is important to remember that children with Down syndrome typically possess greater receptive than expressive language skills. Articulation and pronunciation difficulties may result in speech that is difficult for others to understand-especially those unfamiliar with the child. As many as 95% of parents express difficulty understanding their child with Down syndrome at some time.

It is no surprise that children with Down syndrome often experience difficulty with communication, articulation, and linguistic development. Both auditory and oral structural anomalies contribute to this phenomenon. Hearing loss due to inner ear involvement is common, with 60-80% of children affected. It is impossible for the child to correctly reproduce sounds which are heard poorly-or not at all. Articulation is commonly altered in persons with Down syndrome and is related to structural alterations of the tongue, palate, and facial muscles. Defects in dentition may also be present, such as malocclusion of teeth and/or missing teeth, which further contribute to articulation difficulties.

Dykens, E.M., Hodapp, R.M., & Finucane, B.M. (2000). Genetics and Mental Retardation Syndromes, (pp. 67-71). Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishing

Chapman, R.S. (1997). Language development. In S.M. Pueschel & M. Sustrova (Eds.), Adolescents with Down syndrome: Toward a more fulfilling life (chap.10). Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishing.