Speech Difficulties in Kids with Down’s Syndrome

1 out of 830 children are born with Down syndrome which means approximately 23,000 – 29,000 children are affected with Down syndrome every year in India. Isn’t it a lot!! Numbers show India has the highest number of children suffering from Down syndrome. The survival rate of those who are affected with Down syndrome is only 44%.  Even though it is common, many people don’t even know what is the Down’s syndrome. (Child with developmental delay: Signs and Remedies)

Research shows that development in children with Down syndrome is similar to normal children but slower. Children having Down syndrome also typically have delays in speech and language learning. Some speech sounds are difficult for people with Down syndrome to produce, and others are difficult to understand. Despite these challenges, children with Down syndrome are excellent communicators who just need some encouragement, proper nutrition and training to do so effectively. This Syndrome is not curable but we can improve their life by taking extra care of them. Check how!!

What is the Down’s syndrome?

All human beings have 46 chromosomes ordered in 23 pairs. These 46 chromosomes are the combination of 23 chromosomes from parents respectively. And if a person has an extra chromosome then that condition is called Down syndrome.

Down’s syndrome is a genetic disorder generally associated with speech delay, physical growth delays, characteristic facial feature and mild to moderate level intellectual disability. Infants, toddlers and children with Down syndrome have structural and functional differences in their mouth and throat areas that makes it more difficult for them to make precise movement which leads to speech difficulty. They also have hearing loss which also affects Speech delay. (Baby’s milestones: 6 Foods that help)

Down’s syndrome and speech delay:

It is observed that speech delay is a common symptom in children with Down syndrome. They have a specific impairment in the phonological loop which holds verbal and auditory information, it temporarily stores verbal information for rehearsal, and this is now thought to be a major cause of their speech and language difficulties.

Some of these distinctions may have an influence on speech and language in children with Down syndrome.

  • Low facial muscle tone: The midface of children is small and the nose, mouth and jaw are also smaller. This impacts the airway and this means there is less room for speech in the face and mouth. 
  • Larger tongue size: It may be more difficult to generate sounds since they have a larger tongue than their mouth size.
  • Ear infections: Due to the presence of fluid in the ears, frequent ear infections can impair hearing. (Ear infections in kids)
  • Slower learning abilities: Slower learning abilities might cause developmental milestones, particularly speech milestones, to be delayed. (Difficulties in Learning, Reading and Writing: 7 Foods that help)

In general, children begin to speak between the ages of 10 and 18 months, while children with Down’s syndrome may not begin to speak until they are between the ages of 24 and 36 months.

Tips to improve speech disorder/ delay
  • Spend a lot of time communicating with your baby. Sing a song or rhyme and encourage imitation of sound and gesture.
  • Talk slowly and clearly. Use simple and short sentences.
  • Read stories to your child daily. Encourage them to talk to you about the plot and characters, ask them how they think a character could behave, let them ask questions whenever they feel like they’re simply learning how to express themselves.
  • Don’t miss any opportunity and use everyday situations to create communication. Keep on telling the name of different objects around the house.
  • Explain what you are doing as you are cooking, dish washing or cleaning or engage them by saying let’s do this or that.
  • If you are not watching the television, turn it off. The excess background noise can cause delays in the formation of words
  • Let the child lead the conversation.
  • Ask a lot of daily questions and give time to your child to answer questions.
  • Give lots of praise and positive reinforcement while also correcting, instead of criticizing the child for not saying the word properly.
  • Encourage you baby to use straw for drinking or just to blow air through it. This helps the child to develop the oral muscles used for speech.

Food helps to improve speech delay In down syndrome children

Without the brain, there would be no language. The human brain has a few areas that are specific to language processing and production. Adding foods that support brain development can help to improve language development in kids with Down’s syndrome.

1. NUTS

All the nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashew, peanuts and hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E and help in boosting memory. They are also antioxidants which protect against cell damage. Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and are a valuable substance for brain function, memory and thinking abilities. This fatty acid also encourages cognitive functions. (best nuts for protein)

2. Seeds

Apart from nuts, seeds like flex, chia, melon, sesame and pumpkins also contain powerful antioxidants like vitamin E that protect the brain from free radical damage. Sunflower seeds impact overall mood and mental processing powers and therefore it is considered a brain boosting snack. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, copper, and much higher in zinc than other seeds, which help in increasing concentration and memory. One of the easiest to feed brain boosting foods for kids.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids

Multiple studies have shown the link between low omega 3 fatty acids and speech delay, poor focus and concentration. These healthy fats are crucial for brain development and help to manage speech disorder and delay in kids. It can also improve speech quality. Include fish like salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans and tofu for adequate supply of omega -3 fatty acids.  (10 reasons to give kids with omega 3 foods)

4. Vitamin E

Vitamin E acts as antioxidants and kills free radicals which can damage our nerves resulting in speech problems. Including more fruits, vegetables, nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in the child’s diet will help. 

5. Ashwagandha

This herb is an adaptogen. Ashwagandha is known to reduce anxiety and stress for better brain performance. Moreover, it increases acetylcholine levels which support better memory, mental focus and intelligence. Ashwagandha also improves communication between nerve cells and stimulates the body’s capacity to heal any nervous system damage.

6. Shankhpushpi

This herb works as a memory tonic. It is a traditional remedy for increasing the functioning of the brain. The powerful antioxidants and flavonoids present in it improve the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness, alertness of an individual. Since it is a brain tonic and stimulator, people taking shankhapushpi have improved memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities.

7. Brahmi

Brahmi is a superfood for the brain and is believed to sharpen the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals associated with learning and memory. It can boost mental performance by altering neurotransmission via acetyl choline and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Brahmi boosts memory span, lowers anxiety, aids in the correction of speech problems, and promotes attention by restoring the function of brain receptors.

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