Most children and adults with Down Syndrome understand more language than their expressive language skills suggest.  As a result of poor expressive skills their understanding can also be underestimated.

Social interactive skills and non-verbal communication skills are usually a strength but speech production (articulation and phonology) is often a weakness.  The use of gestures and signs to communicate is a positive step.

Children with Down Syndrome usually experience considerable delay and difficulties with learning to talk.  There is a physical difficulty with speech production – first words are delayed and strings of words are difficult.

Children with Down Syndrome show the same progression from one word to two word combinations, once they can say between 50-100 words.  They show the same progression to early grammar in their speech when they have a spoken vocabulary of 300-400 words.  The delay in reaching a productive vocabulary of 300-400 words (at 5-6 years, instead of at 2-3 years) may affect the ability to master sophisticated grammar and phonology in later speech.

Vocabulary learning, while delayed, is also a strength but grammar learning is a weakness.  Children tend to talk using keywords rather than complete sentences.

Progress in comprehension and production of vocabulary may be compromised by hearing difficulties.  There is often specific difficulty with speech sound production and speech intelligibilty may be an issue.

Progress in sentence production and in complex grammar learning may be compromised by a weakness in short-term memory. Teenagers and adults may still communicate with short, telegraphic sentences.

Articles and Information

Speech Production in People with Down Syndrome by Monica Bray

Speech Therapy for Children with Down Syndrome  by Libby Kumin

Down Syndrome and Cued Speech by Pamela Beck

Speech and Language Resource Guide for Children with Down Syndrome : Pre-school through Kindergarten by Libby Kumin

Speech and Language Resource Guide for Parents of School Age Children with Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin

Speech, Language and Communication for Individuals with Down Syndrome: an overview

What Can We Do at Home to Help Our Child?


Speech vocabulary and development charts

Cued Articulation Program


Speech Therapy – Computer Activities for Young Children


Schermerhorn, Will  Discovery: Pathways to Better Speech for Children with Down Syndrome [DVD]

Miller, Jon F  Improving the Communication of People with Down Syndrome

Buckley, Sue  The Development of Language and Reading Skills in Children 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  Classroom Language Skills for Children with Down Syndrome : A Guide for Parents and Teachers

Kumin, Libby  What Did You Say? : A Guide to Speech Intelligibility in People with Down Syndrome [DVD]

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]

Down Syndrome Education Trust  Speech, Language and Literacy Development for Infants and Children with Down Syndrome

 0-11 [kit]

Understanding Down Syndrome – Learning to Talk [VIDEO]

Sometimes your child’s difficulty with speech cannot be attributed to developmental delay alone, but to a disorder that results in difficulty planning, coordinating, producing and sequencing speech sounds known as Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

Articles and Information

Childhood Apraxia of Speech Resource Guide by Libby Kumin

The following articles can be found in Disability Solutions – type in issue and volume numbers to view these back issues: 

You Said It Yesterday, Why Not Now? Developmental Apraxia of Speech in Children and Adults with Down Syndrome Vol 5, Issue 2, Nov/Dec 2002

Speech Intelligibility and Childhood Verbal Apraxia in Children with Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin  Vol 5, Issue 1, Jul/Aug 2002

Lessons By Abigail by Carrie Olson  Vol 5, Issue 3, Jan/Feb 2003


Australian Dyspraxia Association Inc

Makaton is a form of Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) used with people who are unable to speak, are difficult to understand or have communication, language or learning problems.

Articles and Information

Makaton, Auslan, Signed English – What’s the Difference? by Karen Bloomberg

Using Your Hands to Talk : Key Word Signing by Karen Bloomberg

Makaton Signing for Children with Down Syndrome by Kerry Read

The Use of Signs by Children with Down syndrome by Marita Hopman

Teaching Sign Language by Claire Donovan


Down Syndrome Society of South Australia  Australasian Dictionary of Sign

The Makaton Vocabulary Illustrated with Signs and Gestures

Irrabeena  Makaton Vocabulary Australian Sign Match Stage 2 [VIDEO]

Irrabeena  Makaton Vocabulary Australian Sign Match Stage 3 [VIDEO]

Variety Club of Tasmania  Makaton Nursery Rhymes for Australasian Children [VIDEO]

Variety Club of Tasmania  Songs, Fun… Action [VIDEO]

Down Syndrome Society of South Australia  Song Book With Signs


Makaton Australia

Auslan signs and resources to download and purchase