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In this section of our website you will find up-to-date information on health care issues related to Down syndrome. We trust you will find this information useful. We encourage you to contact us for questions or suggestions at (518) 438-1113 or e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Our services at the Down Syndrome Aim High Resource Center are devoted to helping individuals with Down syndrome get access to appropriate health care, from birth to adulthood, so that they can reach their fullest potential.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 20:30

From First Eye Contact: Speech and Communication in Babies with Down Syndrome

Written by Ann Nobis, Speech-Language Pathologist

Ann Nobis, Speech-Language Pathologist

From first cry, to first look, to first smile, to first sound, to first thought, to first word, to first expressed idea, your baby will communicate with you and continue to grow with his or her communication skills throughout life.  Your baby has been born with the innate ability to learn to communicate as all babies have been.

Your baby's journey may be more challenging and take some different turns, but it is an adventure to travel on this road while you and your baby are learning the art of communication and speech, language and communication development is a natural process for all children and it is a process that will happen for your baby too.  It may take a little more time or it may happen in a way you just weren't expecting, but it will happen.  It all began in utero when your baby heard your voice and it will continue on today and everyday hereafter.

The first cry expresses, "I'm here, world".  The first look expresses, "I see you Mom and Dad".  The first smile expresses, "I know you're my Mom and Dad and I love you".  The first thought might be "Oh, that tastes yucky".  The first word expresses, "I know what I want".  The first idea expresses, "I think, too".

Expression of communication comes in many forms.  Gestures, facial expressions, body language, pointing, sign language, augmentative means (such as the use of pictures) and spoken words all allow for communication to occur between your baby and the surrounding world.  Your baby may use some or all of these means as he or she is learning the art of communication.  Your baby may also change the way in which he or she communicates along the journey.  This is a sign from your baby to you that he or she is growing and learning how to be a communicator.

Understanding of communication shows itself in many different ways.  Your baby may change his or her gestures, body language, physical state, emotional state, as well as his or her general reactions to hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting something.  These are all indicators that your new baby is interacting and understanding the world around him or her.  In the beginning, you will help your baby add meaning to all of his or her actions and experiences by speaking with your baby, playing with your baby, hugging and loving your baby and responding to his or her behavior with positive words, facial expressions, and body language.  Your love and encouragement for your baby reinforces that he or she "can do" and "is doing"!

Expectation and potential are key words when raising all children, regardless of the circumstances of how they have entered the world.  Each step along the communication path leads to the next step.  When you engage and interact with your new baby, you are laying the solid foundation needed for speech, language and communication development.  You touch him and he responds...communication is happening.  He smiles and you smile back...communication is happening.  He dirties his diaper and you say "oh, stinky"...communication is happening.  You blow "raspberries" on his tummy...communication is happening.  You help him bring his toes to his mouth...communication is happening.  He cries and you show him the bottle...communication is happening.  Your dog barks and you say "Hear Fido?"...communication is happening.  Your baby is part of a fascinating world full of wonder and new experiences.  Your baby, just like all babies, has been born with the desire to explore, learn and be a part of that world, especially when you are there with your love and encouragement.

You are entering the world where many "specialists" such as a speech language pathologist will help to teach you about the development of feeding, speech, language and communication and what you can do along the way to engage your child and teach your child to be the best communicator he or she can be.