What Is Down Syndrome And How Can Speech Therapy Help?

What Is Down Syndrome And How Can Speech Therapy Help? | Voz Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC

As a parent, you always want your child to have the best quality of life possible.

For many parents, hearing that their child has a disability such as Down syndrome can cause so many “what ifs” to float through your mind.

However, with proper support, many disabilities now have a long life expectancy and expected quality of life.

For a child with Down syndrome, an important aspect of quality of life is access to speech therapy for Down syndrome.

Read on to find out more about Down syndrome and what a speech therapist can do to help your child succeed.

What Is Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome occurs when someone is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Usually, everyone has two copies of each chromosome.

People with Down Syndrome have a third copy of chromosome 21 instead.

This is why Down Syndrome is also sometimes referred to as trisomy 21.

Down Syndrome causes physical and mental developmental disabilities and delays that are lifelong.

While these disabilities can shorten life expectancies in some cases, people with Down Syndrome can still live happy and fulfilling lives.

What Are The 3 Types Of Down Syndrome?

Often, people aren’t aware that there are actually three types of Down Syndrome.

The three types differ in how the third copy of chromosome 21 shows up in the body’s cells.

Trisomy 21

Trisomy 21 is the most common form of Down Syndrome.

People who have Trisomy 21 have an extra copy of chromosome 21 in every cell in their body.


In this type of Down Syndrome, individuals only have an extra part of chromosome 21.

The extra part of chromosome 21 will attach itself to another one of the 46 chromosomes.


Mosaicism happens when someone is born with an extra chromosome in some of their cells instead of every cell in their body.

Usually, people with mosaic Down syndrome will show fewer symptoms than people with trisomy 21.

Symptoms Of Down Syndrome

Down syndrome causes a few different kinds of symptoms.

Physically, someone with Down syndrome is likely to show:

  • A small head and ears
  • Bulging tongue
  • Short neck
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Flat facial features
  • Eyes that slant upward

People with Down syndrome often also show symptoms of mild to moderate developmental disability.

These symptoms may appear as impulsive behaviour, poor judgement, slow learning capabilities, and a short attention span.

Finally, there are some common medical complications that occur with Down syndrome.

Some of these complications can include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Cataracts
  • Sleep apnea
  • Leukemia
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life
  • Chronic constipation
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Late tooth growth
  • Poor vision
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Obesity
  • Proneness to infections such as respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and skin infections

What Is The Main Cause Of Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is caused by an error in gene replication during the cell development of a baby.

Everyone is supposed to have 46 chromosomes in their body total.

You get half (23) of these chromosomes from one parent, and half from the other for a total of 46 chromosomes, or two pairs of 23 chromosomes.

Down syndrome happens when chromosome 21 doesn’t separate properly when it’s passed from parent to child.

Instead of getting one copy of chromosome 21 from each parent, someone with Down syndrome got two copies of chromosome 21 from one parent and one copy from another, for a total of three chromosomes.

Overall, people with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

What Are The 3 Types Of Down Syndrome | Voz Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC

Can Down Syndrome Be Cured?

Currently, there isn’t any known cure for Down syndrome.

However, early intervention is curial to help improve your child’s quality of life.

Early intervention support can help your child with their sensory, social, self help, and motor skills.

How Does Down Syndrome Impact Speech?

Down syndrome can impact speech in a couple different ways.

Firstly, if your child has Down syndrome, they may have hearing problems that affect their ability to hear and reproduce speech.

Secondly, Down syndrome can cause developmental delays that may delay speech development.

Down syndrome can also cause problems with muscle tone and coordination which can affect speech.

Many people with Down syndrome struggle with the coordination, strength, and timing of muscle movements to create speech that is understandable.

Often, children with Down syndrome may not speak their first word until two or three years of age.

Despite speech delays, children with Down syndrome will show a desire to communicate before they can produce words.

You might notice your child crying, reaching, or gesturing among other strategies to communicate what they need, even if your child can’t use words yet.

How Can You Help Your Child With Down Syndrome Develop Language Skills?

The best thing you can do to help your child develop language skills is to integrate your child into activities that involve social interaction in your community.

Depending on your child’s specific needs, this could involve scouts, youth groups, sports, or music.

It’s also important to contact a speech therapist as soon as possible.

A speech therapist can work with your child one on one to develop their language skills and they can also provide you important tools and activities to help your child develop their language at home with you.

When Should Down Syndrome Speech Therapy Start?

Although it sounds young, speech therapy for your child with Down syndrome should start before the age of 1.

Why so early?

Oral motor skills are important for the development of speech, and you can start working on those long before you expect your child to speak their first word.

Working on strengthening the muscles around the mouth will also help your child with feeding, which many babies with Down syndrome can struggle with because of the coordination needed.

Once your child becomes old enough to start speaking, your child’s speech therapist will work with them on speech.

The early years are important for developing lasting muscle strength and habits that contribute to better speech skills and quality of life for your child.

How Can Down Syndrome Speech Therapy Help?

Speech therapy for Down syndrome can help your child in a number of ways.

A speech therapist can both evaluate and provide treatment for speech language difficulties in a comprehensive way.

Your child’s speech therapist will usually evaluate their speech, communication, and oral motor skills in order to develop a plan to best help your child.

Your child’s speech therapist can also help design programs in the classroom, home, and in the community to help your child’s communication skills develop.

Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today

Like with many disorders that cause speech problems, early intervention is key.

Book your appointment with Voz Speech Therapy today to get your child on the road to communicative success.

Voz Speech Therapy
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005

(202) 734-4884
- https://g.page/vozspeechtherapy

Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.

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