Down Syndrome Research and Practice 1(1)
Sue Buckley, and Gillian Bird
This article describes the development of our interest and expertise in the teaching of reading to children with Down syndrome since 1980 and the insights that we have gained into the children's language learning difficulties while teaching them to read. The readers' attention is drawn to the links between spoken language skills and reading skills and the differences between the strategies an ordinary five year old can use when learning to read and those available to a child or teenager with Down syndrome. The methods of introducing and developing reading skills are outlined, emphasising the principles on which they are based. The same methods are advocated whatever the age of the child at the outset. The benefits of even limited reading instruction for developing good spoken language are emphasised.
A preliminary study of sleep disorders and daytime behaviour problems in children with Down syndrome
The recent occurrence and severity of a range of sleep disorders were determined in a group of children with Down syndrome, and compared with those in a group of non-disabled children with the same mean age and similar Social Economic Status distribution. Associations were explored between the sleep disorders in children with Down syndrome and measures of their daytime behaviour. Frequently occurring sleep problems were found to be significantly more common in the group with Down syndrome compared with the non-disabled group. The most common sleep problems showed a different pattern in the two groups. In the children with Down syndrome, various significant associations were seen between the number of frequent sleep problems and specific types of disturbed daytime behaviour. Within the Down syndrome group, boys had significantly more frequent sleep problems than girls. The findings show that sleep problems are common in children with Down syndrome and that they are linked with disturbed behaviour during the day. The requirements for possible further research are discussed.
Research during the last ten years has begun to unravel some of the reasons for the difficulties that most children with Down syndrome experience when learning to talk. The studies reveal a variety of specific difficulties that will impede progress over and above any effects of general cognitive delay. Most of the research to date is descriptive, outlining the delays and differences usually seen in the language performance of children and teenagers with Down syndrome and some of the possible reasons for these delays and differences. There are very few published studies of the long-term effectiveness of remediation as yet, despite the fact that many of the specific difficulties described should be remediable to at least some degree.This article focuses on the research that, in the author's view, has the most relevance for remediation strategies and some of the practical implications are set out at the end of the article. It also draws attention to the complex and interactive nature of language learningand its significance for cognitive development.It is the author's belief that if interventions based on our current knowledge were implemented throughout childhood many young people with Down syndrome would have much better speech, language and cognitive skills and consequently enjoy a much improved quality of life.
Investigation of the articulatory patterns of young adults with Down syndrome using electropalatography
Tongue movements for speech in three adults with Down syndrome and one normal speaking control were investigatedusing electropalatography (EPG) and diadochokinetic rate (DDK)techniques. The subjects with Down syndrome all showedsubstantially larger areas of tongue-palate contact comparedwith the control subject for alveolar sounds /t, d, n, l/, anddifferences in fricative articulation. Undershoot (incompleteclosure) was a feature of velar articulations /k, g/ in the subjectswith Down syndrome. Longer closure duration, longer consonanttransition times within clusters and consistently slower DDKrates were also noted. Asymmetry and variabilitywere evident in two of the subjects with Down Syndrome.The results support the hypothesis that people with Downsyndrome have difficulties with coordinating the rapid tonguemovements necessary for clear speech with impaired tonguemotility and motor programming as well as phonological delay.Implications for treatment are discussed.
The productive language skills of a group of children with Down syndrome were compared with those of normally developing children, and children with learning difficulties but not Down syndrome. The three groups of children were matched for their level of verbal comprehension skills. The children with learning difficulties were the same age as those with Down syndrome, the normally developing children younger. The South Tyneside Assessment of Syntactic Structures (STASS) was used to elicit language samples from the children, which were analysed using the Language Assessment Remediation Screening Procedure (LARSP) and percentage scores obtained. Although the children with Down syndrome produced as many utterances as the other two groups, their language contained significantly fewer Stage III and IV structures. They also showed a deficit in pronouns and auxiliary verbs used in comparison with the other two groups. Implications for language teaching are discussed in the light of these findings.