Speech Therapy for Children with Down Syndrome
Do you have a child with Down Syndrome? If so, you may have been referred by your doctor or paediatrician to begin Speech Therapy for your child.
This can be an exciting and nerve-wracking time; with so many unknowns, it can be helpful to learn a little bit more about what to expect when seeing a Speech Pathologist for the first time.
In this article, we’re going to explore what Down Syndrome is and how certain characteristics of the condition can impact speech, language, and feeding. As a team of passionate Speech Pathologists, we’re well-equipped to help you and your child meet their therapy goals so they can thrive in life.
What is Down Syndrome?
Let’s quickly review what Down Syndrome is before we get into the nitty gritty of Speech Therapy options. As you likely already know, Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that causes a person to have an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. This additional chromosome causes a number of physical and developmental differences, including some level of intellectual disability.
Chromosomes are best described as a code that dictates how a human being grows and develops. When this ‘code’ is adjusted, like in the case of chromosome additions in Down Syndrome, the way a person grows and develops changes.
There are three types of Down Syndrome that can be diagnosed through genetic testing:
- Complete trisomy 21
- Mosaic trisomy 21
- Translocation trisomy 21
There are similar developmental differences that occur across the three types.
What Causes Down Syndrome?
As we have already covered, Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that arises from abnormal cell division during the development of the sperm cell or the egg cell. But why does this happen, and what causes Down Syndrome to occur in the first place?
In the case of Complete Trisomy 21 Down Syndrome (around 95% of diagnoses) the occurrence of Down Syndrome is random. This means there is no exact cause of the abnormal cell division.
When it comes to Translocation Trisomy 21, this can be inherited from parents, but it is a rare form of Down Syndrome (around 2-4% of diagnoses).
How Down Syndrome Impacts Speech, Language and Swallowing
Speech Pathologists like us can work with toddlers, children, teens, and adults with Down Syndrome. Targeted speech therapy from a young age can help people with Down Syndrome in a lot of different ways.
Here are a few areas in which Speech Therapy can be beneficial for people with Down Syndrome:
There are both anatomical and physiological characteristics that can make feeding and swallowing difficult for children and adults with Down Syndrome. Feeding therapy can help to make mealtimes a positive experience for children with Down Syndrome and are particularly beneficial in the early stages of life to ensure safe swallowing.
People with Down Syndrome typically have anatomical differences including lower facial muscle tone and a larger tongue for their mouth size that can make articulating words and making speech sounds more difficult. Speech Therapy can support children with Down Syndrome to develop their speech and language skills so they can be clearly understood by others.
Speech and Language
Children with Down Syndrome may have trouble reaching their speech and language milestones. Sometimes this can actually be due to hearing problems! Around two thirds of children with Down Syndrome experience hearing loss, so it is worth making sure your child has hearing tests if you are noticing a speech and language delay.
Getting Started with Speech Therapy for Children with Down Syndrome
If you have a child with Down Syndrome who needs support with feeding/swallowing, speech sound articulation, or other challenges, it’s best to seek out a referral from a trusted GP or paediatrician straight away. Many private practices have long waitlist times of up to 6-12 months, so the sooner you can be added to a waitlist, the better.
Here in Australia, there are over 15,000 people with Down Syndrome. Through the support of the NDIS and a caring community, children with Down Syndrome will grow up to achieve great things. We love working with our clients with Down Syndrome and building relationships with them to create targeted therapy that aligns with their personal interests lights us up.
If you’re based in Queensland, give our friendly team a call to book an initial appointment for your child. We have private practices in Townsville, Mackay, and Brisbane (Mansfield) ready to help you.
*Please note this information is general in nature.