Return to Children with Special Needs & Learning Difficulties

Genetic Syndromes and Communication Difficulties



See our Special Needs Header Page for a full list of special needs information and resources
The term syndrome refers to the association of several clinically recognizable features, signs (diagnosed by a doctor), symptoms (reported by the patient / carer), phenomena or characteristics which often occur together. A genetic disorders or genetic syndromes is a condition caused by abnormalities in genes or chromosomes. Some genetic disorders can occur because of chromosomal abnormalities early in birth development due to errors that occur as the cells are dividing, but are more likely to be caused by a “faulty” recessive gene which may be carried by both healthy parents who reproduce, or an individual parent may carry a defective dominant gene. There are hundreds of different genetic syndromes which can present with a number of features, often including a communication difficulty and developmental delay. Unfortunately, some of these syndromes lead to birth defects, deformities and malformations.


We have displayed just three common syndromes below to show examples of how they can present with communication difficulties:

  • Down’s Syndrome – this syndrome often causes an individual to have speech, language and cognitive difficulties.
  • Fragile X – this syndrome often presents with speech and language delay, learning difficulties
  • Velocardiofacial syndrome – children with this syndrome may display speech and language delay, specific learning difficulty and sometimes a cleft palate.
  • Angelman Syndrome – this syndrome will usually present with speech and language delay, learning difficulties.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder – There is now more evidence that this disorder sometimes has a genetic link, and associated communication difficulties.

Other common syndromes that may present with communication difficulties and developmental delay are Williams Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.


These are just a few examples of many hundreds of syndromes, many of which have no impact on speech and communication development. However, there are many programs, resources and strategies that can be used to help a child with a syndrome overcome a communication problems.


If your child has a communication delay because of a syndrome, check out the rest of the site – which offers a range of advice and guidelines around enhancing communication, speech, language, and offers ideas around alternative forms of communication (see the Total Communication section). We also have some Key Guidelines to enhance communication between parents, teaching staff and children with communication difficulties or developmental delay. It is also important to contact your local speech and language pathologist/therapist to get expert professional advice and therapy for your child.


For more information about special needs and other communication difficulties, and ideas and strategies to help communication, see our Resources, or for specific fact-sheets with helpful hints about Special Needs go to the Downloads section.
Recommended Reading


For a wider range of books, click here to see our Bookshop.

Permanent link to this article: