Many children with Down syndrome have better receptive language than expressive language and this can often lead to frustration since they may know what they want to communicate but are unable to make the appropriate sounds.

Signing is often used as a technique to alleviate this frustration and gives the child an alternative method of communication.  In Western Australia Makaton is the type of sign language most often taught.

Some ideas to improve communication:

  • If your child is having difficulty getting their message across then ask them to show you what they want.
  • Use face-to-face methods to communicate.  Make sure you have eye-contact with your child.
  • Give instructions one at a time.
  • Allow your child time to respond.  You may have to ask other family members not to respond for the child with Down syndrome.
  • Continue with reading activities as these build up your child’s knowledge base so that when speech communication improves they already have a number of concepts and vocabulary to work with.
  • Use lots of speech during the day and practise sounds and vocabulary.

What Does Communication Comprise Of?

 Verbal (what we say)
 Vocal (how we say it)
 vocabulary  clarity of speech  eye contact
 sentence structure  fluency  facial expression
 topic choice  intonation pattern  turn taking
 topic maintenance  voice volume  hand gestures
 choice of vocabulary  rate of speech  posture

Articles and Information

To view this article click on the link below,

Total Communication Options for Children with Down Syndrome in the Context of Hanen Programs for Parents by Claire Watson


Miller, Jon F  Improving the Communication of People with Down Syndrome
Communication Without Speech : A Guide for Parents and Teachers
Godfrey, Debbie  Enhancing Communication: A Guide to Communicating with Children Aged 5 Years and Over, Who Have Special Needs
Manolson, Ayala  It Takes Two To Talk : A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Communicate
Kumin, Libby  Communication Skills in Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents
Kumin, Libby  Helping Children with Down Syndrome Communicate Better : Speech and Language Skills for Ages  6-14
Kumin, Libby  Early Communication Skills in Children with Down Syndrome : A Guide for Parents and Professionals
Therapy Focus  Helping Your Child Develop Communication Skills : A Self-training Package Containing a Manual, DVD and CD-Rom [kit]

Early Communication video produced by Down Syndrome WA  –
Toilet training video produced by Down Syndrome WA –


Makaton Australia