Multi-sensory impairment and Down syndrome

Children and young people with multi-sensory impairment (MSI) have impairments of both sight and hearing.

The effect of a combined reduction in both vision and hearing - even if mild - affects the amount and quality of information that a child can pick up from their environment​.

Poor access to everyday information can have an impact on a child’s:

  • social interaction
  • understanding of concepts
  • emotional development
  • communication and independent mobility skills

As a result development and learning are affected.

Many children with Down syndrome will have MSI but there has been little research on the actual numbers involved. One study in Denmark in 2010 found that eight per cent of multi-sensory-impaired people had Down syndrome.

Any possible medical treatments will be those for the individual hearing and vision impairments mentioned previously.

People supporting a child should especially focus on their communication, mobility, social and educational development. As with single sensory impairments, early intervention is the key to improving outcomes for the child.

View more information about early intervention for children with multi-sensory impairment, other guidance and sign posting for parents. 

Sense Children’s Specialist Services

Sense's Children's Specialist Services are a team of specialist advisory teachers, children’s therapists, and Children and Family Support Workers.

The team provides advice and information to multi-sensory-impaired children and young people, to their families or carers, and to the professionals who work with them. They also provide support in the home, at school or at their centres of excellence.

Related links in this section

Down syndrome homepage

Hearing impairment and Down syndrome

Visual impairment and Down syndrome


The Information Standard 'Certified member' logoThis page is not a substitute for a consultation with a health professional and should not to be used as a means of diagnosing a condition.

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Reviewed: May 2015
Review due: May 2017

First published: Thursday 20 June 2013
Updated: Tuesday 22 December 2015