What Your Child Needs to Know About Children with Down Syndrome

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Children with Down syndrome often have delays in:

  • Motor skills, like sitting, walking, or using their hands

  • Thinking skills, called intellectual disabilities

  • Social skills

  • Communication

  • Feeding

They may also have health problems. As a baby, your child may have trouble eating and drinking. She may have problems hearing and may have other health problems. As she grows, she may be slow in sitting, walking, talking, and learning.

Will My Child Be Able to Talk?

Many children with Down syndrome have speech and language problems. But many children with Down syndrome are able to talk as they get older.

Your child may have trouble:

  • Understanding and saying words

  • Putting words into sentences

  • Asking questions

  • Eating and drinking.

  • Speaking clearly

  • Remembering new information

Hearing problems can make it harder for a child with Down syndrome to learn words and speak clearly. It is important to have your child’s hearing checked.

Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, work with people who have speech, language, thinking, and swallowing problems. Your SLP may work with a team to help your child learn. The team may include a doctor, an audiologist, other therapists, a nurse, a teacher, and your family. The SLP may suggest that your child see other specialists for more help.

What Will the SLP Do?

Your SLP will work with you to find out what works best for your child. Your SLP may:

  • Help your child learn to swallow safely

  • Check your child’s hearing

  • Refer you to a hearing specialist, called an audiologist, if your child has trouble hearing

  • Help your child learn to speak more clearly

  • Teach you ways to help your child at home

  • Help teachers and others talk to your child in a way that he understands.

  • Give you ideas about other programs that may help your child, like playgroups or camps

What if My Child Can’t Talk?

Some children take a long time to talk. Others may not ever be able to speak clearly or use words. If your child is slow to learn words, your SLP will help him learn other ways to communicate. Your child may be able to communicate with hand movements, like sign language, pointing to pictures, picking up or pointing to objects or even electronic devices that can say the words your child chooses. This is called augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC.

Tips for Helping Your Child at Home:

 Your child needs to hear words and sounds all day long. She will learn best by watching you and copying what you do. To help, you can:

  • Play games like pat-a-cake and peekaboo

  • Help your child learn the names of objects and pictures in a book

  • Use pictures to teach steps in self-care like dressing and bathing

  • Talk about what is happening, like “I am washing dishes” or “You have a ball”

  • Tell stories and nursery rhymes to your child

  • Use the hand signs your child is learning and say the words for her



Sandy Dorsey, President, All About Speech, Little Voices, Big Conversations. 

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