Every month, Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology’s Editor in Chief, Bernard Dan, identifies one key paper as the Editor’s Choice.

Communication in Angelman syndrome: a scoping review

Lucy Wilde, Mary Heald, Rachel Royston, Chris Oliver

Aim A scoping review was conducted to examine and evaluate empirical data on the communication profile of Angelman syndrome beyond the described dissociation between receptive language and speech.

Method Three databases (PsycINFO, Embase, and Web of Science) were searched to retrieve articles investigating communication in Angelman syndrome. Seventeen articles investigating the broader communication profile were found; their methodology was evaluated against quality criteria.

Results Despite the absence of speech, individuals with Angelman syndrome have a wide repertoire of non‐verbal communicative behaviours, mainly characterized by gestures, although advanced forms such as symbolic communication are used by some individuals. The use of communicative forms differs between the genetic aetiologies of Angelman syndrome; individuals with non‐deletion aetiologies typically have greater communicative abilities.

Interpretation The broader communication profile of Angelman syndrome is characterized by diverse and multimodal abilities, including some use of symbolic forms of communication that appears atypical given the absence of speech. This is suggestive of a probable dissociation between speech and other expressive forms of communication, indicating an isolated speech production impairment. This highlights a need in this population for alternative communication and specific input from services tailored to support the nuances of the communication profile of Angelman syndrome.

What this paper adds

  • Although absent speech is near universal, a diverse profile of other communicative abilities has been reported.
  • Parental reporting has been predominantly used to assess the communication profile of Angelman syndrome.
  • Literature that investigates the specificities and possible dissociations in such a communication profile is limited.

Watch Chris Oliver discuss this paper

Editor Podcasts

The Editor’s Podcasts present a conversation between one of DMCN’s editors and an invited guest on a theme drawn from a recent editorial. These podcasts seek to facilitate conversations between different disciplines and specialisms.

Bernard Dan speaks to Jaime Slaughter-Acey from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota about Bernard’s editorial in the July 2019 issue of Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology: ‘What does race mean in neurodisability studies?’. The editorial can be read here.

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