Complicating such problems are the disease’s other symptoms, such as difficulties with mobility because of poor balance and muscle coordination, epileptic seizures, and behavioral issues.
Types of communication difficulties in Angelman syndrome
Verbal speech can be completely absent in some Angelman patients, and others — even as adults — may be able to only voice a few words. These people usually rely on gestures, sign language, and devices to communicate with others. They may point, touch, or give out objects to express a feeling or an idea.
Nonverbal skills can improve in some individuals as they near or attain adulthood, and attention spans lengthen. These individuals may rely more on natural, self-developed gestures, and non-speech vocalizations rather than electronic communication aids.
Communication difficulties can cause frustration. In some patients, such frustrations can lead to aggressive behavior and anxiety.
What causes communication difficulties?
Difficulty with speech can be due to several factors, such as motor problems, poor tone in muscles essential to speech (like those of tongue and throat), and structural anomalies such as a protruding tongue. Delayed development and intellectual disabilities, as well as the possibility of apraxia (damage to motor neurons in the area of the brain that regulates speech) may also play a role.
Management of communication difficulties
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems can be used to improve communication in Angelman syndrome. This includes using pictures, symbols, objects, and different mobile applications.
Speech and occupational therapists can teach parents, schoolteachers, and others who regularly communicate with Angelman patients various movement and gesture techniques to improve communication. Learning these techniques are often beneficial, but they can require considerable time and effort.
Music therapy is another effective way to help develop speech, language, and communication skills in children with Angelman syndrome. A specific song, for example, can be used to teach a letter or to help in pronouncing a word, and also works to exercise the muscles of the mouth. Instruments, such as whistles, also target mouth and throat muscles. Music can also be used to help the child in choice-making, sentence structure, phonemic awareness, and speech intelligibility.
Visual aids, sign language, and AAC devices can be incorporated into music therapy sessions to aid communication.
Last update: September 5, 2019
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