Children with Down syndrome (DS) have both strengths and challenges in their development of communication skills. While they tend to interact well with other people and to find creative ways to get their message across, their speech and language development is often delayed. Speech difficulties are common and many children can be difficult to understand. Early intervention is important to help the child with the development of language, target specific speech errors, and increase speech intelligibility.
There are many different treatment approaches. As a speech-language pathologist working with a child with Down syndrome, it is important for me to use a variety of methods (often simultaneously) as part of a comprehensive, individually designed program. The focus of treatment may change at different stages of the child’s development. Working closely with the family as well as collaborating with other professionals working with the child is a key part of a successful treatment protocol.
In many cases, children with Down syndrome understand language and want to communicate before they can speak. The use of augmentative and alternative communication methods (AAC) may be incorporated into the child’s treatment program while he/she is working on speech.