Down syndrome is a specific syndrome caused by chromosomal abnormality (a triplicate of chromosome 21 rather than a duplicate). Its major characteristics often include general hypotonia (too little muscle tone), open mouth posture with tongue protrusion, a flat facial profile, developmental delay or mental retardation and cardiac malformations (in about 40% of patients). These children often have some type of hearing loss as well. Speech development is typically delayed and complicated by facial abnormalities and a language impairment is common.
Children with Down syndrome have a wide range of speech and language abilities, just as other children do. They clearly understand the concept of language and communication and want to communicate from an early age. It is essential that these children be taught ways to communicate with and have an effect on people in their environment as early as possible. Identifying areas that are difficult for each child and which affect his/her speech and language development are very important.
Chief among the people who can help the child with Down syndrome master communication skills is the speech-language pathologist. These professionals are trained to understand the process and development of communication skills as well as to assess and treat communication difficulties.