Speech Therapy For Children With Down Syndrome
Basing on the guidelines in Public Law 99-457, after confirmed diagnosis, children suffering from Down Syndrome are eligible for evaluation for all education plan services for physically challenged ones. As per the IDEA 97, children under 3 years of age who are suffering from Down Syndrome can opt for speech and language evaluation and respective treatments, audiological testing and treatments, feeding behavior and treatment, transportation and costs. Though speech and language problems in all children with Down Syndrome may be common but same pattern of treatment cannot be provided for all patients. generally the expressive language gets more difficult than the receptive. In simple terms, the children have better understandability to what others say and speak but face difficulty in arranging words and speaking what they want to speak. Vocabulary are sometimes more easier for such children than grammar. When some have difficulties in sequencing of words, some also exhibit difficulty in articulation (pronunciation) and showing emotions on speech. Few also have problems in fluency. Some prefer talking with short phrases, while few likes saying in long conversations. So many different types of symptoms makes the therapy procedures very unique and difficult to manage for each children.
Normal Speech Development V/s Down Syndrome:
The most troublesome trait in children with Down Syndrome is the delay in speech development. Normal children say their first word completely by the end of their first year from birth; 11 words by 17 months; 25 words per month by they complete their second year; 2000 words by their 5 years, 3000 words each year within 7-16 years. But when they gather around 50 words, they start joining them into small phrases and then make sentences when they reach 300. Then they proceed with grammar and fluency vocab. In contrast, children with down syndrome show an entirely different pattern of speech development. The whole process occurs much slower while their speech gets very difficult to understand. Affected children show language development by their 18 months of age. When they complete 2 years and 3 months, they speak 11 words approximately which rises to 50 when they complete 3 years and 1 month. Around 3% of such children develop absolutely no vocabulary by they reach their teenage.
The whole process of speech therapy appears moderately difficult for sufferers. The following are the instructions to start a speech therapy for children with Down Syndrome:
- Always try to start early. Do not wait for your child to develop speech. Speech therapy will help to communicate through gestures, expressions and physical contact.
- Start with teaching the proper breathing pattern. Most children suffer from speech problems due to their faulty breathing pattern. Teach them how to place accurate pauses between words, avoiding mixing of two words and controlling their rate of speech (not too high not too slow).
- If you find your child having problems in swallowing, consult a therapist. This can also be another cause for your child not speaking properly.
- Focus on how to to develop the vocabulary and improve his pronunciation of words. To avoid confusion use words that do not have any more than one type of meaning. Start with short but meaningful phrases, then to small sentences. Teach simple grammar patterns and very common speech patterns.
- Check for any hearing impairment. If present, it can also be a cause for not being able to communicate effectively. So speak slowly and be very clear. Enunciate each word you speak.
- Use educational games and toys to develop learning abilities and speech faster.
- If your child lives in a bilingual home, then try to stick to any one language. Else it gets difficult for the child to grasp any of the spoken language. In case, it gets uncomfortable, talk to your therapists about it.
- Speak to your child on different topics, be it current affairs or anything that he can understand well and get interested in listening to them.
- Let your child to complete his sentences. Give him enough time and scope express his own feelings and thought.
Make your child feel his importance and give him enough space to be comfortable speaking something. Do not make him feel shy about his incompetency in speaking. To achieve the best results from a speech therapy; family support, a therapist with high expertise, cooperation between child and therapist, patience among all and a good encouraging environment is necessary.