Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Your Child to Communicate

Beyond the once a week speech therapist, (which I can't imagine would be enough to do much good!) there is a lot more you can do early on and along the way to help your child to communicate better. Many factors work together in order to achieve excellent speech and communication skills.

Since so many different parts of the brain and body have to cooperate in order to be able to talk, I use Jett's speech as a gauge to let me know how his brain is working. If his verbal ability continues in a straight or rising line, all is well, if it slows, stops or regresses, I know I'm missing something and need to address it.

How's Jett's communication?
Fortunately, we learned about steps to support Jett's speech when he was very young. (You can read more about his speech milestones here.) According to his IEP evaluation when he was a month shy of 3 years old, his articulation was excellent -- above average on a typical scale. At 3 years and 2 months, he says: "I see bags... I see bags from the grocery store!" (Which means he's coming over to empty them out for us so we'd better take out all the breakables!) "The bird is flying!" (He saw a hawk.) And the air was cooling down as night came on and he said, "It's cold... It's snowing! The snow is falling! In my mouth!" (We're in Florida, but he's read about snow in his books.) He also told me that the slide is too hot and dangerous. (He's been hanging out with my mother.) Last week, I was commenting on how often Jett's little brother was kicking me in my stomach and he put his hand on my stomach and said, "Ouch! He stung me!"

When Jett got an evaluation before he started 4K, he didn't qualify for speech therapy (he also didn't qualify for an intellectual disability!). He says stuff like, "I'm an astronaut, flying through outer space!" (He went down the tunnel slide on the playground.)

At 6 years old, he expresses himself well by letting us know what he's thinking, what he needs and answering questions. We are working on the back and forth communication that involves interest in others and empathy, which kids w/Asperger's (like Jett) often have trouble with. At this point, he makes conversation by As far as pronunciation, Jett does say "silly" instead of "chili" so I need to figure out how to work on that.

In this post, you'll find an organized variety of informative links to help you tackle your child's full range of communication issues:

Steps for Better Speech

Rule Out Physical Issues

Tongue Tie
First, look for any structural issues that may secretly be causing speech delays. Is your child tongue tied? TT would cause difficulty saying sounds such as "t", "d" and "n." Did you know that there are four types of tongue ties? I know a child with DS who was tongue tied but it was not discovered until she was 6 years old because it was further back in her mouth! 

Clef Palate
Does your child have an undiagnosed clef palate? Have your child's ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) Doctor check for you. Here are several types:
  • Incomplete cleft palate- A cleft in the back of the mouth in the soft palate.
  • Complete cleft palate- A cleft affecting the hard and soft parts of the palate. The mouth and nose cavities are exposed to each other.
  • Submucous cleft palate- A cleft involving the hard and/or soft palate, covered by the mucous membrane lining the roof of the mouth.
I know a child who had a submucous cleft palate that wasn't discovered until he was three. It caused him to route air through his nose instead of mouth. So he was physically having a hard time talking. His wasn't found until they did a CT scan. Symptoms include: inability or difficulty blowing air out of the mouth; drink or food coming out of the nose and/or vomiting out of the nose; hard time saying any sounds/words that require breath blown out of the mouth like "f". And if there is a cleft, taking out adenoids and tonsils can be contraindicated because it makes the problem worse.

Basic Body Functioning

Next, your child's senses need to be addressed. Is she hearing, breathing and seeing okay? Children can speak better when they can hear clearly, breath through their nose and be able to take nice, deep breaths. Being able to see a person's mouth and mimic them as well as clearly see text to increase vocabulary will help support attempts at speech.
Eat to Speak

Avoiding unhealthy foods and those that often cause allergies (such as dairy -- known to promote congestion) will help to keep nasal and ear passages clear so that your child can hear and breath better.

Toxin Free Babies

Down Syndrome OPTIONs Diet and Nutrition Section

Healthy Meal Planning Blogs

Address Sensory Issues

If you child is sensitive to sound, the likely culprit is candida or yeast overgrowth. An antifungal relieved Jett of his sound sensitivity

Neurodevelopmental exercises will help with sensory issues such as being overstimulated or understimulated by sound, touch or visual input.

What is Neurodevelopment?  

Get Your Own Neurodevelopmentalist

Oral Sensory Issues

Oral Motor Therapy also helps with sensory issues related to the mouth as well as trains the muscles and prepares the child with pre-speech exercises.
How to get your local Speech Therapists trained in Oral Motor Skills from Hannah's Shenanigans blog.


Verbal Input 

When Jett was an infant, I talked incessantly to him to make sure he had plenty of input. I just gave him a blow by blow account of whatever it was that I was doing. "Okay, Jett, now I'm trying to find a diaper for you so we can keep you nice and dry... Oh, here's a good one! It's blue with white snaps..." Studies show that babies who were talked to a lot spoke earlier than those who had quiet parents.

What's the best way to interact with your child to promote speech? 

Read this article by Miriam Kauk at the Einstein syndrome website, which shows the Communicating Partners method by Dr. James D. MacDonald. The support DVD is listed in the DVD heading below.

Here are some great video clips from James D. MacDonald of Communicating Partners with tips to help your baby express him or herself:

Free video clips to get you started right away.

Reading to Speak

Reading to your child in order for him or her to hear a variety of words in a variety of ways along with pictures will aid your child in learning new words to communicate with.

Books to Read to Your Baby

Books for Your Toddler (coming soon)

Make simple Conversation Books with inexpensive little photo albums to promote dialogue and more.

Should you teach Sign Language?

I did not use sign language with Jett, but I believe teaching a couple of signs would have eased frustration and promoted communication. (Such as milk, hungry, thirsty, potty, sleepy and hurt.) I, personally, would avoid straight communication through sign since we really want our kids to SPEAK.

Read Pursue Speech, not Sign on the Einstein syndrome website for another perspective.

If you do choose to teach sign language, here's a nice post to help you teach your child to sign by Gretchen Mather of Julian's Journey blog.

Proper Feeding to Promote Speech

Feeding your baby correctly will help with tongue thrust as well as to prevent ear infections.

How to Spoon Feed

Proper Breastfeeding for Down Syndrome

Electronic Support

There's also a variety of electronic support that you can use (to increase vocabulary & expose your child to different voices and sounds). However, actual face-to-face, one-on-one talking with (not to) your child is by far the best way to good speech. uses video modeling (videos of people carefully pronouncing words and doing activities) to unlock speech and language for people with special needs. Many children have seen results from this program. (Jett didn't like it, but he's not as interested in people's faces like most children. He did like the videos using foreign language, but there weren't many of those videos at the time we tried it.) There is a very active group on Facebook called MK's Gemiini & Beyond that you can join to learn more. It is run by parents, not Gemiini, so you can get unbiased info. I would absolutely ask to see how to qualify for a discount rate if paying $90 a month is not easy for you. You can see if you qualify to get it as low as $10 a month. They have a free trial, but they do take your credit card information and will start billing you after the 7 day trial, so mark your calendar and fill out any paperwork for a discount ASAP if your child seems to respond well.

My Reviews of Educational Media

Readeez: Songs Supporting Reading Free Download

What supplements best support speech?

Longvida Curcumin

Jett said his first word four days after starting LC when he was 8 months old. It was "water". He's not the only one who's seen huge leaps in verbal ability on it!


Jett started this at 19 months old and I have seen great improvements in his speech including more syllables and parroting early on and has progressed now to two-word sentences (and larger) at 27 months old. This post also explores the benefits of Piracetam. I had given them at the same time, but realized later that NP was the one that really helped Jett's speech.


I had been giving Jett 100 mg everyday, but when I increased it to 400 mg at 27 months old, I saw a big increase in expressive language. See my post Why L-carnosine for the T21 Population?


I know of three moms who have given their child Protandim which is a mixture of green tea extract, bacopa, curcumin, ginkgo, milk thistle and ashwagandha. Two moms saw huge increases in speech and one had a negative reaction, which stopped when she stopped giving it.

Helpful Books can be found at the DS Day to Day amazon Store.

Play To Talk: A Practical Guide to Help Your Late-Talking Child Join the Conversation by James MacDonald Ph.D. and Pam Stoika Ph.D

Early Communication Skills for Children with Down syndrome by Libby Kumin

Helpful DVDs

Parent Kit: Using Oral Placement Therapy With Your Child - TalkTools®
This is a great parent DVD for quality, at-home speech therapy. You can purchase the entire parent kit which includes all the tools necessary including a 3 hour DVD where Sara demonstrates how to use each of the tools at home. This is a link to just the dvd

Talk tools works on building oral motor skills (muscles in the mouth) to build a foundation for speech production.

Communicating Partners DVDs: ECO I and ECO II and Shortcuts are great companions to or replacement for (if you must) the Play To Talk books because they show you exactly what to do and how to do it. I'm a big fan of James D. MacDonald's techniques!

For Apraxia 

See this post: Treating Apraxia in Children with Down Syndrome

What have I seen help preverbal children talk when nothing else has? 

The QRI Home Laser Program. QRI is short for Quantum Reflex Integration. This program involves using a safe, hand-help cold laser (beams of light and LEDs) along with an easy to follow step-by-step instruction booklet and online course to teach you to effectively integrate your child's reflexes. Unintegrated reflexes effect many different aspects of your child's development including speech, movement, cognition, mood and behavior. They even have a Talk Protocol. I spend from 30 minutes to an hour a day on each of my children while they nap and have seen great results.

Join the QRI Cold Laser Facebook group and read their FAQ to learn more. You'll find posts from parents and practitioners who use it on children who have Down syndrome (and other issues). 

Regression or No Progress?

If you have tried all of this and your child still doesn't speak or you've seen regression in speech, I'd strongly suspect an infection that may have traveled to the brain... Some people call it PANDAS or PANS, which is a misnomer. Unfortunately, it's more common than we realize. (I see it quite often in those who have DS.) This is the best book I've found on the root cause and what you can do about it: America Is Infected.

Related Posts
Treating Apraxia in Children with Down Syndrome

Protecting Your Child's Hearing

Improve Your Child's Vision

Keeping Nasal Passages Clear & Mouths Closed

Books to Read to Your Baby

BrillKids is offering discounts for Special Needs

Early Steps for Better Speech

How to Spoon Feed

Readeez: Songs Supporting Reading Free Download

Readeez Sale

My TV/Video Strategy

Parent's Resources for Guidance on Down Syndrome

Get Your Own Neurodevelopmentalist

15 Things A New Parent Should Know

Some TV is Good for Our Kids

Longvida Curcumin


Why L-carnosine for the T21 Population?



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