How Can Down Syndrome Affect Communication?

DownSyndromeAwarenessDid you know that one in every 691 children is born with Down syndrome, with an estimated 400,000 people currently living with the condition in the United States? Each October, individuals and associations across the country observe Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a campaign designed to raise public awareness of this disorder and the people it affects.

People with Down syndrome are typically very social and enjoy communicating with others. Unfortunately, the developmental difficulties associated with the syndrome often cause difficulty with speech and language. Clear, understandable speech is one of the more difficult areas for people with Down Syndrome. There are a variety of physical factors that can affect speech production, including issues with respiration (breathing) and coordination and strength of the muscles used in speech. Individuals with Down Syndrome usually have strong non-verbal communication skills (e.g., use of facial expression and gesture), good social use of language, and often develop a relatively strong vocabulary. Receptive language (understanding and comprehension) is also a relative strength. However, many aspects of grammar, like sentence structure and verb tenses, can be problematic.

A speech-language therapist can help a person with Down Syndrome use their communicative strengths to help build on areas that are more difficult. During the evaluation, a speech-language pathologist will determine the specific areas that are most important for the person with Down Syndrome to communicate effectively, and use these to design a treatment plan tailored to the individual. In some cases, the speech pathologist may help the person learn to use pictures or simple sign language to help express their wants and needs.

Want to learn more? If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give me a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.

© 2015, Speech Associates of New York – All Rights Reserved

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