Down Syndrome in Children and its Effect on Language

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Down Syndrome is a disorder that is most commonly characterized by deformed physical features and is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability. Most cases are caused by the existence of an extra copy of chromosome 21 in all cells in the body, known as Trisomy 21. In some instances, there is a presence of an extra chromosome in only some of the cells or a portion of chromosome 21 attached to another chromosome (Boling and Ashley, 2018). However, these instances are less common and may have all the features of regular Trisomy 21, a few of those features, or none of the features at all. If not diagnosed before via prenatal testing, Down Syndrome is usually found at birth. Some of those prenatal tests include amniocentesis and blood sampling. There is no evidence that suggests that race, socioeconomic status, or geographic location are linked as potential causes of Trisomy 21. Increased age of the mother is the only known factor that links to Down Syndrome etiologically.

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According to Boling and Ashley (2018), people with the disorder exhibit physical facial features that include a round face, flat profile, and small mouth and nose. These individuals mayalso have a large tongue, eyes that are shaped similar to an almond, and small ears. More characteristics include a short and stocky build, short neck, low muscle tone, and delayed growth. Children with Down Syndrome are commonly characterized as social, affectionate, and engaging and these skills are considered to be strengths compared to their struggles experienced with communication. According to an article by Seno, Giacheti, and Moretti-Ferreira (2014), the development of language competencies consists of an acquisition of four components. These components include phonological, syntactic, cognitive, and pragmatic factors.

Phonological errors are very common for Down Syndrome children in their pre-school and school-age periods. Those with the disorder present errors that resemble those of normal developing children, but the inconsistency of their errors is what relates them to a phonological disorder. These children have a continued use of phonological processes. Individuals with Down Syndrome usually have poor speech intelligibility and nearly all of the individuals with the disorder are hard to understand at times. Factors including apraxia of speech and voice quality play major parts in speech intelligibility. The concept of poor speech intelligibility could be responsible for the disparity in Down Syndrome individuals’ receptive and expressive language skills.

The emergence of two-word combinations is known to be delayed in young children with Down syndrome, and children and adolescents with Down syndrome continue to produce shorter and less complex utterances than typically developing children of the same nonverbal mental age as they get older. The majority of individuals with Down Syndrome have moderate intellectual disabilities, but the degrees range from normal intelligence to severe intellectual disabilities. The bigger population presents problems with receptive and expressive language skills. For children with Down Syndrome, expressive language skills are usually more impaired than receptive language skills (Laws et al., 2015)

First words in children with Down Syndrome usually emerge somewhere between 12 and 24 months of age. According to Zampini and D’Odorico (2013), acquiring new words occurs slower than in typically developing children. Vocabulary spurts, or sudden growths displayed in a child’s spoken vocabulary, are known to occur anywhere from 30 months to 5 or 6 years of age. However, not all Down Syndrome children present a vocabulary spurt. The differences in Down Syndrome children and those that are typically developing are significant. Children with Down Syndrome are faced with many strengths and weaknesses when dealing with their disorders. They also have to overcome many challenges that include initiation of different topics, repairing conversations, and other linguistic aspects of speaking and language in general.It is hard for children with Down Syndrome to correctly master sentence structure and grammar.In most typically developing children, a skill that is vital to language development in the pre-linguistic period is joint attention, as well as pragmatic and communicative functions. It has been assumed that language development and the skills of joint attention are connected. As the process of transitioning into intentional communication is one that is fairly quick for normal developing kids, it tends to be a longer, more difficult process for children diagnosed with Down Syndrome. It is believed that children with disorders such as Down Syndrome have deficits with early joint attention joint skills and difficulties with language development. A study by Zampini, Salvi, and D’Odorico (2014) presented that vocabulary skills of children with Down Syndrome can be enhanced by engaging the children in joint attention situations. It is suggested that parents or caregivers of children with Down Syndrome follow the attentions provided by their children instead of changing it.

Babbling is also included pre linguistic process of Down Syndrome children. This stage is typically short for average developing children because it is just a transition into verbal communication. Children with Down Syndrome develop slower than the average child so this stage may take substantially longer. In children with Down Syndrome, the use of gestures remains longer in the period of acquisition of oral language, than in children with typical development (Seno, Giacheti, and Morretti-Ferreira, 2014). The use of language is sort of the bridge that brings everyone together. Communication is the way to form relationships and when children have deficiencies communicating it can make their lives more difficult. The delays that Down Syndrome causes for language in children with the disorder could eventually cause issues with independent living situations in their futures. The studies from the articles studied have shown that there are many language difficulties that have been found in children with Down Syndrome. Expanding the research on this topic would give us the opportunity to discover the specific insufficiencies that exist between disorders and the development of language. Investigating the language effects that Down Syndrome causes on individuals could also provide opportunities to further examine intervention and prevention techniques and strategies for all individuals.

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Down Syndrome in Children and Its Effect on Language. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved June 29, 2022 , from
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