Ways to Help Children with Down Syndrome Overcome the Struggles of Articulation
Helping children with Down syndrome break down the struggles of articulation involves understanding the unique challenges they may face when developing speech.
Children learn to articulate speech by hearing sounds in synchronization with seeing how they are produced. Parents of babies frequently position their faces near their child’s face when speaking, which gives their child a clear view of the shapes they are making with their mouths. This provides children with many opportunities to witness the shape a mouth makes when articulating different speech sounds and increases the likelihood of vocal imitation.
Down syndrome is often accompanied by poor eyesight and hearing difficulties. For children where this is the case, these characteristics make it difficult for them to see the shapes of their parents’ mouths and hear speech sounds with accuracy. Children who have trouble processing sounds and visuals are likely to have a harder time articulating sounds correctly when it is their turn to speak.
A common physical characteristic of Down syndrome is a difference in the shape of the roof of the mouth. When this trait is present at the same time as visual and hearing difficulties, learning to articulate can take a lot of extra practice and hard work. Here are some ways you can help your child with Down syndrome break down the challenges of articulation.
Make sure your child can see your mouth when you speak
Teach your child the relationship between the sounds you make and the shape of your mouth by making sure your child can see your mouth clearly when you are talking. From the very beginning of childhood, position your mouth close to your child’s face as frequently as you can during speech.
Model clear articulation and enunciation
When modeling speech for a child with Down syndrome, make sure you articulate each sound in the word slowly and clearly. Exaggerate enunciation to highlight the differences in the shapes your mouth makes to produce different blends and phonemes.
Use video to model articulation
Slowing down your speech every time you are around your child can be unnatural and taxing. You can give yourself a break from modeling repetitive speech by using a video modeling tool to play closeups of articulation for different words on a television, tablet, phone, or computer.
When the mouth your child is watching is as big as your television, poor eyesight is not such a big deal. Children with visual impairments who have access to video recordings of closeups of mouths producing speech are more likely to imitate the nuanced shapes made by the mouth during articulation.
Increase the intensity of articulation modeling
Khoisan languages spoken in parts of Africa use clicking sounds not heard in English. An English speaker learning to pronounce these sounds would need to see examples over and over again before he or she would be able to produce these sounds in a natural way.
It would take months of repeatedly watching native Khoisan language speakers pronounce these sounds before an English speaker would be able to speak the language in a way that would sound correct to someone who is fluent.
This is true for anyone who is learning to make new sounds. You might imagine that someone with Down syndrome who doesn’t hear very well and doesn’t see very well is going to need a lot more repetition than someone with good eyesight, good hearing, and a typical mouth shape.
Children with Down syndrome will have more success articulating correctly if speech is modeled for them repeatedly throughout the day. Using video recordings to teach articulation can make it easier for you to model articulation for your child frequently every day.
Make articulation practice engaging
It can be boring to watch repetitions of the same sounds over and over. If you are using video modeling, keep your child engaged by breaking up viewing sessions with silly videos of animals, animations, or children playing games together.
Video modeling breaks down the challenge of articulation
Children with Down syndrome have a capacity for language far beyond what they are typically given credit for. If your child struggles with articulation, he or she may not have far to go before his or her speech can be understood by everyone. The amount of improvement it takes to get over that tipping point can be very small, and video modeling can be the right amount of extra boost for kids with Down Syndrome.
The ability to communicate with the world is invaluable and will make such a difference over the course of your child’s life. Video modeling is a great way for children to access articulation practice in modalities that allow them to show us how amazing they are.
Laura Kasbar is the CEO and Founder of Gemiini Systems, a web-based platform that delivers the unique therapy method called Discrete Video Modeling that she developed for those with language learning differences. Discrete Video Modeling has been proven to be effective in research published by professors from 5 universities. Through Gemiini, Discrete Video Modeling holds the key to the global therapy crisis. Gemiini is the only truly scalable, is effective and affordable solution to this ever-increasing population of people touched by autism and other language issues. Although Gemiini can be used as a stand-alone therapy if there is no other option, it is even more powerful combined with live therapy and overseen by a trained professional.