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Down Syndrome: Helping Your Child Learn to Communicate - Topic Overview

Children with Down syndrome usually have delayed speech and language development. Typically, these children have a much harder time learning to talk (expressive language) than with understanding what they hear (receptive language). On average, children with Down syndrome start using words around 16 months of age—about 6 months later than other children.

Children with Down syndrome are often taught sign language to enhance communication and bridge the gap between expressive language and receptive language. Although some parents worry that using sign language will interfere with their child's speech development, evidence suggests that the reverse is true. Sign language gradually decreases as speech abilities develop.

Simple measures can help your baby to develop speech and language skills:

  • Look directly at your baby when you talk to him or her. Soon your baby will imitate and echo sounds that you make.
  • Play games like peek-a-boo.
  • Show different objects to your baby. Say the object's name and describe it.
  • Let your baby see himself or herself in the mirror. Many children enjoy looking in the mirror and babbling at their reflection.
  • If your child shows interest in an object, person, or event, say the name of the person or object or talk about the event.

A speech therapist can provide specific suggestions based on your child's abilities. Usually, this includes detailed information for a home program to help your child practice speaking.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 20, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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