March Is Trisomy Awareness Month!

Trisomy_Awareness_RibbonDid you know that March is Trisomy Awareness Month? Typically, people have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each of the cells in their body. In trisomy, a person is born with an extra chromosome in most or all of their cells, which can cause a range of health issues. The specific health issues that occur depend on which chromosome has an extra copy, whether it’s partial or complete and how many cells in the body have the extra chromosome. One of the most common trisomy conditions in Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome. Roughly 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. In honor or Trisomy Awareness Month, today we’ll talk about some of the communication challenges people with Down Syndrome face, and how a speech-language pathologist can help.

Each person with Down Syndrome is an individual with their own particular strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some characteristics that are common in the disorder. Individuals with Down Syndrome are typically social and eager to communicate with others. Some aspects of communication present as relative strengths; people with Down Syndrome often develop a strong vocabulary, and are typically very good with social language and non-verbal communication, like facial expression and gesture. However, more technical aspects of language, like grammar and sentence structure can be more challenging. Producing clear, understandable speech is another challenge for people with Down Syndrome due to a variety of physical factors that can affect speech production, like issues with breathing and coordination and strength of the muscles used in speech.

A speech therapist can work with a person with Down Syndrome to develop the parts of communication they find most challenging in order to allow them to communicate as effectively as possible with those around them. 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. In school-age children, the speech-language pathologist can work closely with the classroom teacher to determine what is needed to help the child succeed at school. The speech therapist can also work as a classroom advocate, helping teachers and other learning professionals understand the specific academic communication needs of the child and how they can help them succeed.

Do you have a loved one with Down Syndrome? What communication challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them? Share your story in the comments section below!

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.

© 2016, Speech Associates of New York – All Rights Reserved


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