A combination of cutting-edge technology and speech therapy could be used to help children with Down syndrome communicate more effectively.
A team at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh has been trialling the use of new visual feedback technology to assist children with Down’s syndrome, aged between six and ten years, with their speech skills. The research project is also training teaching assistants to assist children with speech improvement.
Therapists have recorded significant improvements in children’s speech when they use Electropalatography, also known as EPG. The technique records where and when the tongue makes contact with the roof of the mouth during speech. It can be a particularly useful means of helping some children with speech difficulties to improve their speech because it provides visual feedback to the child, and does not rely purely on what the child hears. EPG is proving particularly helpful to children with Down syndrome, as they are known to respond well to visual stimuli.
Children with Down syndrome often have poor speech skills. “It has been estimated that up to eighty percent of children with Down’s syndrome have hearing impairment which means that they find it more difficult to correct their speech by just repeating what they hear”, says Queen Margaret’s Professor Scobbie. Their difficulties with speech production can reduce their speech intelligibility which can lead to them being disadvantaged both socially and in education.