A Physiologically Integrated Approach to Studying Mechanisms of Speech Production and Swallow Function in Down Syndrome

Wilkinson, Krista M


Individuals with Down syndrome (DS) have well-documented syndrome-specific atypicalities in oral- pharyngeal structure and function, which are believed to be linked to heightened risk for swallowing disorders (and resultant sequalae such as aspiration-linked pneumonia) as well as difficulty producing clear speech (which can limit opportunities to engage in educational vocational, social, and community activities). Current swallow and speech interventions in DS largely rely on clinical practice approaches that are “borrowed” from other populations, such as individuals with speech sound disorders or apraxia, who rarely present with the syndrome-specific dysmorphologies seen in DS. The proposed project will conduct an integrative analysis of the interrelations between phenotypically-linked characteristics of oropharyngeal structure and function, cognitive and linguistic functioning, and the underlying neurology to determine the mechanisms underlying the execution of oral motor behaviors of safe swallow and clear speech in DS.