Improving the speech and communication abilities of children with Down's syndrome : a new model of service delivery using electropalatography

Wood, Sara and Timmins, Claire and Grayson, Zoe (2016) Improving the speech and communication abilities of children with Down's syndrome : a new model of service delivery using electropalatography. Working paper. Queen Margaret University, Clinical Audiology, Speech and Language Research Centre, Edinburgh.

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Abstract

Down’s syndrome (DS) is the most common genetic cause of mild to moderate learning difficulties (LD), affecting 1 in every 1000 live births in the UK (Down’s Syndrome Association, 2015). The speech skills of individuals with DS are poorer than would be anticipated in relation to both their general cognitive ability and their skills in expressive language (Roberts et al., 2007). These specific difficulties in speech production can lead to significantly reduced intelligibility (Kumin, 2006) which in turn affects the ability to communicate effectively. This often places considerable constraints on educational progress, affects friendship formation and impedes integration into the wider community. The specific speech production difficulties encountered by individuals with DS are often considered to be intractable as they have proved to be resistant to conventional methods of intervention delivered by speech and language therapists (Kumin, 2006). These difficulties persist into adulthood which can negatively impact life outcomes, affect employability and contribute to social exclusion (Shriberg & Widder, 1990). Our previous research funded by the Medical Research Council investigated the speech difficulties experienced by 27 children and young people, aged 9 to 18 years, with DS. As well as increasing our understanding of the types of speech errors made by this population, it experimented with the use of an intervention technique called electropalatography (EPG), not currently routinely available within the NHS, as a method of correcting speech errors in children with DS with a view to improving their intelligibility. The results from this previous research led to the grant funded by the Nuffield Foundation.