Social motivation a relative strength in DYRK1A syndrome on a background of significant speech and language impairments

Lottie D. Morison, Ruth O. Braden, David J. Amor, Amanda Brignell, Bregje W.M. van Bon, Angela T. Morgan

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Speech and language impairments are commonly reported in DYRK1A syndrome. Yet, speech and language abilities have not been systematically examined in a prospective cohort study. Speech, language, social behaviour, feeding, and non-verbal communication skills were assessed using standardised tools. The broader health and medical phenotype was documented using caregiver questionnaires, interviews and confirmation with medical records. 38 individuals with DYRK1A syndrome (23 male, median age 8 years 3 months, range 1 year 7 months to 25 years) were recruited. Moderate to severe intellectual disability (ID), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), vision, motor and feeding impairments were common, alongside epilepsy in a third of cases. Speech and language was disordered in all participants. Many acquired some degree of verbal communication, yet few (8/38) developed sufficient oral language skills to rely solely on verbal communication. Speech was characterised by severe apraxia and dysarthria in verbal participants, resulting in markedly poor intelligibility. Those with limited verbal language (30/38) used a combination of sign and graphic augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. Language skills were low across expressive, receptive, and written domains. Most had impaired social behaviours (25/29). Restricted and repetitive interests were most impaired, whilst social motivation was a relative strength. Few individuals with DYRK1A syndrome use verbal speech as their sole means of communication, and hence, all individuals need early access to tailored, graphic AAC systems to support their communication. For those who develop verbal speech, targeted therapy for apraxia and dysarthria should be considered to improve intelligibility and, consequently, communication autonomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)800–811
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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