Down Syndrome Research and Practice 2(3)
Verbal short term memory skills of individuals with Down syndrome are very poor (Hulme and MacKenzie, 1992; Bower and Hayes, 1994). This study reports on the verbal short term memory skills of individuals with Down syndrome and on the possibility of increasing memory span durably by using a rehearsal training strategy. Three tasks (letter span, digit span and word span) were presented to two groups of 12 individuals with Down syndrome as a pre-test. A global span measure was established for each individual. Each group contained four children, four teenagers and four young adults. The groups had similar memory span and mental age at the beginning of the study. None of these individuals seemed to clearly rehearse. One group of 12 was exposed to an intensive rehearsal training during eight weeks (half an hour a week). The methodology was inspired from that used by Hulme and MacKenzie (1992), and partially from that used by Broadley and MacDonald (1993). The other group of 12 received no training. After the training, the three initial memory tasks were presented again to the two groups as a post-test. The trained participants significantly improved their memory span, whereas the non-trained participants did not improve at all. Only the trained individuals showed, at this time, clear signs of systematic rehearsal. Two other post-tests were presented to them, one six weeks and the other six months after the first post-test. The trained participants did not seem, at these times, to rehearse systematically any more. Their memory performances fell significantly lower than after the first post-test but remained significantly higher than at the beginning of the study.
The laryngeal muscle tension of a group of thirty people with Down syndrome was compared with that of three other groups of people: those with learning disabilities, those with functional dysphonia (that is a voice disorder caused by misuse of the vocal mechanism) and a normal control group. The scores obtained were analysed by SPSS to determine whether there were significant differences in the way in which voice is produced by the four groups. The chief finding is that the energy level needed to activate the vocal mechanism from its at rest level to its voicing level is almost twice as great for the group with Down syndrome as for the control group. Implications for therapeutic interventions are considered. It is felt that new strategies to aid voicing need to be developed. The importance of keeping up fluid levels is highlighted.
Clinical forms of hypothyroidism found in individuals with Down syndrome include transient and primary hypothyroidism, pituitary-hypothalamic hypo-thyroidism, thyroxin-binding globulin (TBG) deficiency and chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism also occurs occasionally. The frequency of thyroid disease is elevated in patients with Down syndrome, starting in the newborn population where it is 0.7% (or 28 times more frequent than in the general population). Twelve per cent or more of adults with Down syndrome have thyroid disease. Thyroid disease is difficult to diagnose clinically in individuals with Down syndrome because of an overlap of symptoms. This makes thyroid blood screening a particularly important part of the annual preventive medicine screening of each person with Down syndrome.
Opinions vary as to whether phonological awareness is a necessary prerequisite for beginning reading, or a product of learning to read. This paper describes a study of phonological skills in six children with Down syndrome who were participating in a larger study of literacy development. The results indicated that some logographic reading ability had developed, while alphabetic and phonological skills were largely absent.
An investigation into the experiences of parents and head teachers involved in the integration of primary aged children with Down syndrome into mainstream school
This study details the results of an investigation into the experiences of parents and head teachers involved in the integration of primary aged children with Down syndrome into mainstream schools. Ten families were involved in the study, each with a child who attended a mainstream primary school within Hampshire. Structured interviews were held with parents (mothers) of each of the ten children and nine of the head teachers in order to gain information about the process of integration and the experiences of those involved. The information elicited by means of these interviews was used to draw up a theoretical `model of good practice' which might facilitate the integration of a pupil with special educational needs into a mainstream school
Are children with Down syndrome able to maintain skills learned from a short-term memory training program?
Irene Broadley, John MacDonald, and Sue Buckley
The ability of children with Down syndrome to maintain a set of trained short-term memory skills was assessed by follow up of a group who had previously undergone training in using rehearsal and organisation based memory strategies. That first study (Broadley and MacDonald, 1993) found that training in rehearsal and organisation skills led to an improvement in short-term memory ability in children with Down syndrome. That study also found that the effects applied across a wide age range; that the training could be conducted effectively by different people and that the type of training (rehearsal or organisation) acts independently, affecting only the targeted memory measures. The study reported here assesses the trained children's short-term memory abilities, 2 months and 8 months after the training had ended. Comparison with their own baseline performance and with a group of untrained children allowed assessment of the long and short term gains in memory performance. It was found that the trained children maintained the level of performance attained at the end of the training study. Training by keyworkers showed advantages for maintenance of some of the gains.
Studies were made of the reading and number abilities of two cohorts of people with Down syndrome. One cohort consisted of people who were born in the sixties, and the other of people who were born in the seventies. Both cohorts were seen in their teens, and the sixties cohort were also seen in their mid-twenties. The studies confirmed that some people with Down syndrome are able to master `academic' skills, and that some people not only retain skills, but continue to improve into the adult years. Comparing the two cohorts at teenage, more of the seventies cohort possessed `academic' skills, compared with the sixties cohort at the same chronological age, but the skills of the seventies cohort were not of a substantially higher order. Looking specifically at reading, in both cohorts teenage language scores were significantly related to reading scores but, for the sixties cohort, there was no relationship between language and reading scores by the mid-twenties. In the sixties cohort more girls than boys could read. In the teens this difference was not significant but it became so in adulthood. This difference between girls and boys was not found in the seventies cohort
Gaye Powell, and John Clibbens
Previous studies into the use of key-word signing with people with a learning disability have concentrated on its contribution to the development of speech and language. The few studies focusing on its relationship to actual speech production and intelligibility were based on taught target words or phrases. This study, which was of quasi-experimental design, looked at whether reported improvements in intelligibility were supported in spontaneous speech production. Communication samples were collected by video recording `good' and `poor' speakers under `high' and `low' signing conditions. `Skilled' and `naive' raters assigned intelligibility ratings under `seen' and `unseen' conditions. It was predicted that speech from the `high' signing condition would be rated more highly than that from the `low' signing condition. This was supported. The iconicity of signs was shown to have a positive effect for `naive' raters when rating the `poor' speakers, which may counter previous arguments that the general public would be unable to understand communication attempts by people using key-word signing.