Communication Abilities of Children with Sotos Syndrome: Research Summary

by Chloe Lane, Megan Freeth, Louisa Robinson

Sotos syndrome is a congenital overgrowth syndrome associated with intellectual disability. Previous research has reported that individuals with Sotos syndrome often have communication impairments and delayed language development. However, the nature of these difficulties has not been explored in detail. Language and communication skills are fundamental for human interaction. Effective communication can facilitate learning and enable individuals to share information and ideas so it is important to identify the extent to which children with Sotos syndrome struggle with language and communication, as difficulties may impact upon learning and social development.

Two important communicative abilities are language structure and pragmatic language. Language structure refers to understanding the rules governing language, such as the ability to construct coherent sentences in which words are used in the correct order. Pragmatic language involves understanding how to use language appropriately, such as using language that is appropriate to the context. Some individuals may have better language structure skills or pragmatic language skills, so difficulty with one does not necessarily mean that an individual will also struggle with the other. To date, these communication skills have not been investigated in individuals with Sotos syndrome. So, the aim of our research was to establish whether children with Sotos syndrome have difficulty with these skills and if so, whether particular aspects of language and communication are more problematic than others.

Our study included 31 children with a diagnosis of Sotos syndrome, ranging in age from 4 – 16 years. Communication abilities were assessed using a questionnaire (The Children’s Communication Checklist, second edition (CCC-2)), which was completed by the parent or caregiver of each child. The CCC-2 has 70 questions which are designed to assess a range of communication abilities, including both language structure skills and pragmatic language skills, as well as social relations and restricted interests.

In terms of overall communication skills, we found that the majority of children with Sotos syndrome were reported by their parent or caregiver as having difficulties with language and communication. This was defined as having greater difficulty with language and communication than typically developing peers of the same age (children the same age with no diagnosed conditions). There was no difference between overall language structure skills and overall pragmatic language skills, indicating that children with Sotos syndrome have similar difficulty with both of these aspects of language and communication. Furthermore, the findings identified that language structure skills predict pragmatic language skills, meaning that better language structure skills result in better pragmatic language skills for children with Sotos syndrome.

Four specific language structure skills (speech, syntax, semantics and coherence) were compared in order to see whether children with Sotos syndrome had particular difficulty with any of these specific skills. The findings indicated that the participants were reported as having a similar degree of difficulty with all of the skills. Comparisons were also made between the four specific pragmatic language skills (inappropriate initiation, stereotyped language, use of context and nonverbal communication). The findings identified that children with Sotos syndrome were reported as having greater difficulty with use of context and nonverbal communication, compared with inappropriate initiation and stereotyped language. Furthermore, participants were reported as having particular difficulty with social relations.

Conclusions

Overall, the findings from this research demonstrate that the majority of children with Sotos syndrome struggle with language and communication skills and will therefore require support with the development of these skills. In particular, children with Sotos syndrome have difficulty with the consistency of communication across different situations, with understanding and using nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, gestures and facial expressions and with forming and maintaining relationships with peers.

For the full paper, please see:

Lane, C., Van Herwegen, J. & Freeth, M. (in press). Parent-reported communication abilities of children with Sotos syndrome: Evidence from the Children’s Communication Checklist-2.
Journal of autism and developmental disorders, doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3842-0

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