Speech and Language

Among the most common challenges confronting people with Down syndrome is speech and language development. Both early intervention and on-going therapies can reduce and often eliminate barriers. The material here can help you become oriented and knowledgeable about the challenge and get you started toward effective therapies.


Augmentative Communication Resources

The following Speech and Language Resource Guides for individuals with Down syndrome have been generously provided to the NDSC and its members by Dr. Libby Kumin and Loyola College of Maryland.

Resources for Social Communication

By Libby Kumin, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Loyola University Maryland

The long-term goal for all children with Down syndrome is to use appropriate social interactive communication skills. These skills will be developed and practiced in school, at home, in community activities, in recreational activities, in friendships and relationships, and in job settings. A lot of practice is necessary and social interactive communication skills continue developing throughout life. Here are some resources you can use to help your child learn to socially navigate her world.

Baker, J. (2001). The social skills picture book. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.

Book designed for children with Asperger syndrome to help them learn social skills for play, understanding emotions, and communication. Uses photos and is very user friendly. He has published other social skills material for children and adolescents. Available on Amazon.com.

Begun, R. (Ed.) (1995). Ready to use social skills lessons and activities for grades 1-3. NY: Jossey-Bass.

Activities for younger children to learn about the social skills required in the classroom. Addresses classroom routines, discipline, thinking before acting, following directions, listening skills, respect for others, attention and self-control. Materials include handouts, checklists and activities for parents as partners in developing social skills.

Freeman, S. & Dake, L. (1996). Teach Me language. Langley, B.C.: SKF Books.

These exercise practice sheets for social language skills are especially good for conversational skills and more advanced social language skills. They offer practice in asking about someone’s interests, staying on topic, filling out forms, emotions, paragraph writing, writing stories, grammar and syntax, narratives, summarizing stories, giving and supporting opinions with reasons, math word problems, comparatives and superlatives.

Gajewski, N., Hirn, P. & Mayo, P. (1993) Social Star. Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.

Good program to get started with social skills, especially with small groups. Many visual helper sheets for teaching skills and for use as reminders and prompts. Includes verbal (conversational skills), and nonverbal skills (eye contact), as well as speech skills (tone of voice, volume) that affect social communication. Examples of worksheets: Listen up, Bodies speak louder than words, Facial expression bingo.

Kelly, A. (2002). Talkabout: A social skills communication package. UK: Speechmark Publishing.

Talkabout is an assessment and a therapy program that’s best for elementary school and above. The therapy program uses worksheets with activities to learn about social communication skills. Cartoons are used and language level is simple.

Talkabout Activities is a separate book with therapy and classroom activities.

Manix, D. (1995). Social skills activities for special children. San Francisco, CA: Wiley & Sons.

Activities that are both classroom and home based to focus on appropriate social skills, especially as related to behavior and following rules. Includes asking for help, working with others, making friends, developing positive social skills, and getting along with others. Also includes social stories about children who are mastering social skills.

McConnell, N. & LoGiudice, C. (1998). That’s Life: Social language. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems.

Designed for children ages 11 and above. Excellent resource for SLPs for designing individual and group social language therapy sessions. Uses self-evaluation as well as SLP evaluation. Includes role playing and problem solving activities. This book includes discussions of ridicule and sarcasm, respecting others, tone of voice, body space, and staying on topic and other conversational skills.

Mulstay & Muratore, L. (2006 ) Answering questions, Level 1. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems.

Designed for children who can understand simple who, what and where questions, but have difficulty with more complex questions, and with questions involving feelings.

Level 2 (2006) has the same categories with more difficult questions, more complex structures and situations.

Smith, P. (1998). That’s Life: Life skills. East Moline IL: LinguiSystems.

Designed for adults and students transitioning towards independent living skills. Chapters on homemaking, health concerns, consumer affairs, money matters, going places, and laws and government. This book does not focus directly on social communication, but will help special educators and speech-language pathologists in designing real life activities to practice communication skills. Some of the language used may be difficult for adolescents and adults with DS.

Sussman, F. (1999). More than words. Toronto: The Hanen Program.

Designed for parents to help develop communication and social interactive skills in children with autism spectrum disorders. The book has checklists to help parents learn more about their child’s sensory processing and communication issues. Includes sections on using pictures, photos, objects, toys, games and music to help promote communication in children who do not easily interact with the people in their environment. The visual helpers can be used to help children learn to take turns, request, and other social communication skills.

Weitzman, E. (1992). Learning language and loving it. Toronto: The Hanen Program.

Designed to help early childhood teachers promote social communication in the classroom. Includes useful information for developing communication skills in individuals and small groups and discusses the relationship between communication and literacy.

Websites for Materials

Social Stories


Carol Gray has multiple books for sale and articles on the website, related to writing social stories for children.

Personalized stories


This site has social skills stories that can be personalized. These materials can be downloaded and should be helpful in working on social communication and behavior.

Social story videos


This website sells video DVDs to teach social skills. Videos available for different ages include Time for School, I Can Do It, and Model Me Conversation Cues.

Carol Gray has DVDs called Storymovies available at www.thegraycenter.org.

Note: Social Communication Skills was published in Down Syndrome News, Vol. 33, 2010, No. 6. This resource list was developed to accompany the article.