Down Syndrome Research and Practice 3(1)
Irene Broadley, John MacDonald, and Sue Buckley
A group of 4 to 18 year old children with Down syndrome (N=62) was presented with a set of working memory tasks, including auditory and visual serial recall of words; standardised digit span tasks and a rhyme judgement task. The serial recall tasks involved pictures of common objects or the spoken names of these objects and the children had to recall lists which varied on a number of parameters, including word length and the acoustic similarity of the object names. It was found that contrary to expectation the children's performance showed significant effects of word length and acoustic similarity, which are normally taken to indicate phonological storage and speech based rehearsal. These effects were found in both the auditory and visual presentation conditions and for the youngest age group. In addition to this evidence for speech based storage in short-term memory there was also evidence of the children utilising visual information in the serial recall tasks. The results are discussed in terms of working memory operation and the implications for memory remediation strategies in children with Down syndrome.
How do speech and language therapists work with support assistants attached to communication disabled children?
This paper analyses the role and training needs of classroom support assistants, as perceived by ten speech and language therapists. All identified the value of the assistants' detailed knowledge of the child, availability to the child to mediate communication in the classroom and natural 'maternal' style of interaction. However, the limitations of 'natural' responsiveness and the need for specific training is also recognised, as is the need to balance the benefit of an individual support for the child against the disadvantage of too much dependence on one person in the classroom.
An exploratory study to investigate different methods for teaching sight vocabulary to people with learning disabilities of different aetiologies
Two contrasting theories of learning were compared to ascertain the most effective method for teaching sight vocabulary to children and adults with learning disabilities of differing aetiologies (Down syndrome and non-specific learning disabilities). A control group of children, matched for mental age, was included for comparison. Samuels' (1967) focal attention theory suggests that, for beginning readers, when a new word to be learned is accompanied by other stimuli, such as a related picture, less efficient learning occurs. Goodman's (1965) theory, however, would refute this. His theory suggests that the presence of a related picture improves learning. Results of the present study reinforced Samuels' theory. Children of normal ability learned best when the target words were presented on their own (p<0.02). All other individuals (children and adults) followed this trend, however, results did not reach statistical significance when learning conditions were compared. The study suggests that sight vocabulary is learnt most efficiently by all participants using a similar strategy, that is, when the target word is presented alone. However, before firm conclusions can be drawn, it is recommended that further study is carried out relating to both children and adults with learning disabilities. Findings will have an impact upon teaching practice.
The differential diagnosis between Alzheimer's disease and hypothyroidism in adults with Down syndrome who begin to show clinical deterioration needs to be emphasised. This study investigated clinical features which could be used to differentiate between the two conditions. Memory loss, mood and personality change, speech and gait deterioration, and slowing down were significantly associated with dementia but not with hypothyroidism. It is recommended that specific questions should be asked to elicit the presence of these features particularly in those individuals in whom assessment of biochemical thyroid status is not possible.
Comparison of physical and psychiatric status in individuals with translocation and trisomy 21 Down syndrome
No study to date has investigated clinical differences between adults with translocated Down syndrome and those with trisomy 21. Nine translocated Down syndrome individuals were matched to 9 trisomy 21 controls and assessed for medical differences. Significant findings included the translocated group having less severe learning disability according to ICD 10 criteria, less obesity and increased frequency of psychiatric disorders (in particular dementia and depression). However, on the Adaptive Behaviour Scale, the translocated group have significantly poorer independent functioning skills and more maladaptive behaviour, possibly as a consequence of the higher incidence of dementia and depression. Further studies investigating differences between the differing cytogenetic forms of Down syndrome is recommended.