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Evidence for Preserved Novel Word Learning in Down Syndrome Suggests Multiple Routes to Vocabulary Acquisition

Conclusions: Vocabulary acquisition in Down syndrome may not rely on verbal short-term memory to the same extent as in typically developing children, lending support to the suggestion that new word learning may be underpinned by an additional memory process.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Language and verbal short-term memory skills in children with Down syndrome: A meta-analytic review

This study presents a meta-analytic review of language and verbal short-term memory skills in children with Down syndrome. The study examines the profile of strengths and weaknesses in children with Down syndrome compared to typically developing children matched for nonverbal mental age. The findings show that children with Down syndrome have broad language deficits (that are not restricted to measures of expressive language) and associated verbal short-term memory deficits. The profile of language skills in children with Down syndrome shows similarities to that seen in children with Specific Language Impairment. The practical and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

The role of vocabulary, working memory and inference making ability in reading comprehension in Down syndrome

Thirteen children and young adults with Down syndrome (DS) completed tests of language and reading and their performance was compared to that of three control groups. Reading comprehension was confirmed to be a specific deficit in DS and found to be strongly correlated with underlying language skills. Although reading comprehension was more strongly related to language ability in the DS group, this was shown to be a function of more advanced word recognition rather than a characteristic of DS per se. Individuals with DS were found to have greater difficulty with inferential comprehension questions than expected given their overall comprehension ability and the reading profile associated with DS was found to be similar to that of children known as poor comprehenders. It is recommended that oral language training programs, similar to those that have been shown to improve reading comprehension in poor comprehenders, be trialed with children who have DS.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Visuospatial support for verbal short-term memory in individuals with Down syndrome

Individuals with Down syndrome (DS) tend to have impaired verbal short-term memory (STM), which persists even when visual support is provided for carrying out verbal tasks. Objective: The current study aims to investigate whether visuospatial support, rather than just visual, can compensate for verbal STM deficits in these individuals. The performance of 25 children and adolescents with DS (mean age = 12.5, SD = 3.8) on five word span tasks was compared with that of two groups of typically developing children, matched for mental age (N = 25; mean age = 6.0, SD = .2) and for receptive vocabulary (N = 25; mean age = 4.0, SD = .8). Four of the five tasks varied in terms of input and output – verbal and/or visual – and the fifth task included a spatial component in addition to visual input and output. DS individuals performed equally bad in the pure verbal task and in those with visual components; however, there was a significant improvement when the spatial component was included in the task. The mental age matched group outperformed DS individuals in all tasks except for that with the spatial component; the receptive vocabulary matched group, outperformed DS individuals only in the pure verbal task. We found that visuospatial support improves verbal STM in individuals with DS. This result may have implications for intervention purposes.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

The role of vocabulary, working memory and inference making ability in reading comprehension in Down syndrome

Thirteen children and young adults with Down syndrome (DS) completed tests of language and reading and their performance was compared to that of three control groups. Reading comprehension was confirmed to be a specific deficit in DS and found to be strongly correlated with underlying language skills. Although reading comprehension was more strongly related to language ability in the DS group, this was shown to be a function of more advanced word recognition rather than a characteristic of DS per se. Individuals with DS were found to have greater difficulty with inferential comprehension questions than expected given their overall comprehension ability and the reading profile associated with DS was found to be similar to that of children known as poor comprehenders. It is recommended that oral language training programs, similar to those that have been shown to improve reading comprehension in poor comprehenders, be trialed with children who have DS.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Maternal and paternal pragmatic speech directed to young children with Down syndrome and typical development

The aim of this study was to compare functional features of maternal and paternal speech directed to children with Down syndrome and developmental age-matched typically developing children. Altogether 88 parents (44 mothers and 44 fathers) and their 44 young children (22 children with Down syndrome and 22 typically developing children) participated. Parents’ speech directed to children was obtained through observation of naturalistic parent–child dyadic interactions. Verbatim transcripts of maternal and paternal language were categorized in terms of the primary function of each speech unit. Parents (both mothers and fathers) of children with Down syndrome used more affect-salient speech compared to parents of typically developing children. Although parents used the same amounts of information-salient speech, parents of children with Down syndrome used more direct statements and asked fewer questions than did parents of typically developing children. Concerning parent gender, in both groups mothers used more language than fathers and specifically more descriptions. These findings held controlling for child age and MLU and family SES. This study highlights strengths and weaknesses of parental communication to children with Down syndrome and helps to identify areas of potential improvement through intervention.

from Infant Behavior and Development

Verbal Short-term Memory Performance in Pupils with Down Syndrome

Research has shown that verbal short-term memory span is shorter in individuals with Down syndrome than in typically developing individuals of equivalent mental age, but little attention has been given to variations within or across groups. Differences in the environment and in particular educational experiences may play a part in the relative ease or difficulty with which children remember verbal material. This article explores the performance of 26 Egyptian pupils with Down syndrome and 26 Egyptian typically developing children on two verbal short-term memory tests: digit recall and non-word repetition tasks. The findings of the study revealed that typically developing children showed superior performance on these tasks to that of pupils with Down syndrome, whose performance was both lower and revealed a narrower range of attainment. Comparisons with the performance of children with Down syndrome in this study suggested that not only did the children with Down syndrome perform more poorly than the typically developing children, their profile also appeared worse than the results of studies of children with a similar mental age with Down syndrome carried out in western countries. The results from this study suggested that, while deficits in verbal short-term memory in Down syndrome may well be universal, it is important to recognise that performances may vary as a consequence of culture and educational experiences. The significance of these findings is explored with reference to approaches to education and how these are conceptualised in relation to children with disabilities.

from the International Journal of Disability, Development and Education

Communicative performance of children with Down syndrome in two different situations*

CONCLUSION: caregivers’ socioeconomic and educational levels might be considered risk factors for the development of the pragmatic aspects of language in children with DS and special attention should be given to these families during the speech-language therapeutic process. Independently of the interlocutor, these children were able to initiate and maintain communication, using communicative means and functions in a similar fashion.

from Pró-Fono Revista de Atualização Científica

Phonological awareness and writing skills in children with Down syndrome*

BACKGROUND: Down syndrome, phonological awareness, writing and working memory.
AIM: to evaluate the phonological awareness of Brazilian children with Down syndrome; to analyze the relationship between the writing hypothesis and the phonological awareness scores of the participants; to compare the performance of children with Down syndrome to that of children with typical development according to the Phonological Awareness: Tool for sequential evaluation (PHONATSE), using the writing hypothesis as a matching criteria; to verify the correlation between the phonological awareness measurements and the phonological working memory.
METHOD: a group of eleven children aged between 7 and 14 years (average: 9y10m) was selected for the study. Phonological awareness was evaluated using the PHONATSE. The phonological working memory was evaluated through an instrument developed by the researcher.
RESULTS: all subjects presented measurable levels of phonological awareness through the PHONATSE. The phonological awareness scores and the writing hypothesis presented a significant positive association. The performance of children with Down syndrome was significantly lower than children with typical development who presented the same writing hypothesis. Measurements of phonological awareness and phonological working memory presented significant positive correlations.
CONCLUSION: the phonological awareness of Brazilian children with Down syndrome can be evaluated through the PHONATSE. Syllable awareness improves with literacy, whereas phonemic awareness seems to result from written language learning. The phonological working memory influences the performance of children with Down syndrome in phonological awareness tasks.

from Pró-Fono Revista de Atualização Científica

Characterization of the symbolic abilities of children with Down syndrome

CONCLUSION: The results confirmed the hypothesis of delay in the development of symbolic abilities of children with Down syndrome. The evaluation of language and symbolism in a functional context allowed the confrontation of manifestations observed in this group with those described for children within normal language and symbolic development, showing that the level of symbolic development was the best measure for analyzing and monitoring the group.

from Revista de Sociedade Brasileira de Fonoaudiologia

The role of gestures in oral language development of typically developing children and children with Down syndrome

The aim of the present study was to characterize the role of gestures at the initial stages of oral language development in typically developing children and children with Down syndrome (DS), based on a large bibliographic review in scientific databases, covering the past two decades of studies on this subject. The researched literature suggests that the gestures play an important role in oral language development, providing the child with extra cognitive resources for the learning of new words and utterances. It has also been pointed out the social function of gestures in this process, since they sign to the interlocutor that the child is already ready to receive a particular linguistic input, eliciting verbal productions from the adult, who provide the child with the model of how to express his or her ideas completely in speech. Concerning the children with DS, the gestures also seems to be predictive of lexical development, but only regarding receptive vocabulary, while the specific difficulties reported concerning the transition from gesture-word combinations to multi-word utterances have been speculated as an early indicative of later deficits in syntax development, frequently reported in this population. Besides that, the studies in this field have suggested that the characteristics of the parent-child communicative interaction in children with DS, such as the production of brief and unclear gestures by the child, and the lesser responsivity of their mothers, can also contribute to the deficits in expressive language presented by these children.

from Revista de Sociedade Brasileira de Fonoaudiologia

Expressive Language Profiles of Verbally Expressive Adolescents and Young Adults With Down Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome

Conclusions: Results contribute to the ongoing construction of the language phenotypes of individuals with DS and individuals with FXS and support the conclusion that there are quantitative rather than qualitative differences in their expressive language profiles.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Comprehension of the Communicative Intent Behind Pointing and Gazing Gestures by Young Children with Williams Syndrome or Down Syndrome

Conclusions: At the group level, preschoolers with WS or DS were able to comprehend the communicative intent expressed by pointing and gazing gestures in a tabletop task. Children with DS evidenced significantly stronger pragmatic skills than did children with WS, providing further evidence that children with WS have more difficulty with sociocommunication than expected for chronological age or cognitive/language ability.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Attribution of false beliefs in the language development of children with Down syndrome

CONCLUSION: The CG showed a better performance in all questions of the false belief test, when compared to the DG. Thus, it was possible to evaluate false belief in children with Down syndrome.

from Revista de Sociedade Brasileira de Fonoaudiologia

The notions of classification and seriation in children with Down syndrome

CONCLUSION: Within- and between-group analysis showed the progressive and cumulative character of classification and seriation notions. Moreover, the studied children followed the same acquisition order observed in typical development.

from Revista de Sociedade Brasileira de Fonoaudiologia