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Issue 7 Autumn 2014

Not all twins share a special language

Twins communicating

Learning to speak and to be understood is a milestone some of us find more difficult than others. Identifying why some children encounter speech and language issues is crucial to learning more about this condition that affects five percent of the population.

Speech and language disorders disrupt the natural flow of communication and can impact on self-esteem, school, work and general well-being – not to mention the effect they can have on relationships with friends and family.

It can be incredibly frustrating for young children to be unable to communicate their thoughts and needs. Previous research into families and twins has shown that communication disorders often run in families.

This suggests that some families have genetic factors, which make it more likely that they will have a speech or language disorder. In addition, other genetic factors might make it more likely that a person will recover, or that a speech or language disorder will persist.

The researchers aim to use new genetic techniques to search for genes related to speech difficulty. They hope that by working with twins, where one has a speech disorder and the other doesn’t, the genetics of speech impairment will become clearer.

By trying to identify genes associated with speech disorders, the researchers are hoping to learn more about what causes someone to have speech problems, to more easily identify people who are at high risk of speech disorder, and to develop better treatments.

Identical pairs aged 4-11, in which one has a speech disorder and the other doesn’t, and able to visit the Melbourne Brain Centre in Victoria are needed for this study.

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The ATR is a not-for-profit service supported by an Enabling Grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council and administered by the University of Melbourne.