Speech and Language Delays in Angelman Syndrome and How to Deal With Them

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

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Caring for a child with a developmental disorder such as Angelman syndrome is challenging. Every child develops at a different rate and faces unique challenges. One issue that can be difficult to cope with for the parents of a child with Angelman syndrome is speech or language delays.

What are speech and language delays?

Speech and language delays are delays in meeting benchmarks for infant and child learning. Speech is the expression of language, the way that sounds and words are formed by the mouth, tongue, and throat. Language is the system of getting and giving information in a meaningful way. It refers to understanding and being understood through communication, whether verbal, nonverbal, or written.

While every child is different, there are approximate ages at which children normally reach specific levels. Many infants babble, even before their first birthday, and toddlers might know about 20 words by the time they are 18 months old.

Children with a language delay might be able to pronounce words correctly but have difficulty putting words together into phrases. Children with a speech delay might understand phrasing, but have difficulty pronouncing words.

Speech and language in Angelman syndrome

Children with Angelman syndrome are usually delayed in meeting benchmarks for child learning — they may not babble as infants, and it may take longer for them to form their first words. Some children with Angelman syndrome may be nonverbal or may have difficulty expressing their thoughts in clear phrases. Speaking is controlled by the coordination of the muscles of the throat, tongue, and mouth by the brain; this coordination is something with which Angelman syndrome patients struggle.

Speech therapists can help Angelman syndrome patients with exercises to strengthen muscles and build coordination for speech. They can also help patients and their caregivers develop strategies for communication that rely less on verbal communication.


Last updated: Sept. 3, 2019


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