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Down Syndrome Research and Practice 7(3)

Signing and Lexical Development in Children with Down Syndrome

John Clibbens

Language development in children with Down syndrome is delayed, on average, relative to general cognitive, motor and social development, and there is also evidence for specific delays in morphology and syntax, with many adults showing persistent problems in these areas. It appears that the combined use of signed and spoken input can boost early language development significantly, this evidence coming initially from single case-studies, and more recently from larger scale controlled studies. Research with typically developing hearing and deaf children, as well as children with Down syndrome, has demonstrated the importance of establishing joint attention for vocabulary development. Furthermore, studies carried out with children with Down syndrome indicate that reducing attentional demands may be especially important in scaffolding language development in this group. The use of signing strategies which have been found to facilitate language development in deaf children when signing to children with Down syndrome is discussed, as is the need for further research on this topic and on the importance of joint attention for the use of other augmentative and alternative communication systems, such as graphic symbol and picture systems.

Clibbens, J. (2001) Signing and Lexical Development in Children with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome Research and Practice, 7(3), 101-105.

Sharing laughter: The humour of pre-school children with Down syndrome

Vasudevi Reddy, Emma Williams, and Amy Vaughan

Humour and laughter have often been portrayed as fundamentally cultural and social phenomena. They can be used to tell us about children's ability to engage socially and to understand others, but have rarely been explored for this purpose. The present paper summarises the results of a study of simple forms of humour in children with Down syndrome and with autism, two groups which are reported to differ in their sociality and _ interpersonal understanding. Sixteen children with Down syndrome and 19 children with autism, matched on non-verbal mental age, participated in a cross-sectional study. Parental reports and video-tapes of naturalistic interaction between parents and children were analysed to show that although there were no overall differences in the presence or frequency of child or parent laughter between the two groups, there were differences in what sorts of events were more likely to prompt child laughter, the extent to which child laughter was shared, and how the children responded to others' laughter. The children with Down syndrome were more likely than the children with autism to laugh at funny faces and socially inappropriate acts and less likely to laugh in strange or inexplicable situations, and more likely to laugh at shared events. They also responded to others' laughter with attention or smiles more, and tried to re-elicit it through acts of clowning. Children with Down syndrome are thus active participants in humour and laughter, sharing it at both an emotional and a cultural level.

Reddy, V, Williams, E, and Vaughan, A. (2001) Sharing laughter: The humour of pre-school children with Down syndrome. Down Syndrome Research and Practice, 7(3), 125-128.

Online data collection with special populations over the World Wide Web

Michael Marcell, and Amanda Falls

The quick ascendance of the World Wide Web as the dominant vehicle for Internet communication has recently made experimentation in a multimedia environment feasible on the Internet. Although web sites containing online psychology demonstrations and experiments for non-handicapped individuals have appeared in recent years (especially in the areas of cognitive and social psychology), there appear to have been few attempts to conduct online experimentation with special populations. We recently completed two online pilot studies of families with Down syndrome or Williams syndrome members: a) A survey that asks (via Likert rating scales, adjective checklists, multiple-choice style questions, and text-entry boxes) about family background, computer use, and temperament of the special needs family member; and b) An experiment (completed by an individual with special needs) that includes auditory and visual digit span tasks and a memory-for-orientation task in which responses are entered via mouse clicks. Recruiting began with e-mail announcements to representative Down syndrome and Williams syndrome discussion groups, listserves, and bulletin boards, and submission of the project's URL ( and key indexing terms to selected search engines. This paper reviews technical aspects of developing the online programmes as well as the strengths and weaknesses of online vs. traditional laboratory-based research in relation to issues such as experimental control, delivery of instructions, experimenter bias, participant recruitment, sample heterogeneity, generalization, attrition, privacy, financial costs, data integrity, and ethics. We conclude by offering our thoughts on two ways of implementing online experimentation with special populations: a) Using a remote parent 'helper' as a proxy to work with the target individual; and b) Collaborating with professional colleagues in Web-based projects conducted in traditional laboratory settings.

Marcell, M, and Falls, A. (2001) Online data collection with special populations over the World Wide Web. Down Syndrome Research and Practice, 7(3), 106-123.

Down syndrome phonology: Developmental patterns and intervention strategies

Carol Stoel-Gammon

This paper describes phonological development in children with Down syndrome paying particular attention to underlying deficits and intervention strategies. The first section provides an overview of factors believed to influence phonological development in this population. The second section describes four aspects of Down syndrome phonology: (1) the prelinguistic stage; (2) the transition to speech; (3) the phonology of the single words; and (4) phonological characteristics of conversational speech with a focus on intelligibility. Intervention strategies associated with each aspect are also presented. Children with Down syndrome are slow to acquire the phonological system of their mother tongue. In spite of normal or nearly normal prelinguistic development, these children are delayed in the use of meaningful speech and slow to acquire a productive vocabulary. In some cases their speech remains unintelligible throughout childhood and adolescence, making it difficult to communicate with those around them. The purpose of this paper is to summarize research on phonological development of children with Down syndrome with attention to underlying deficits and to the speech characteristics of prelinguistic vocalisations as well as words and conversation. Current views on intervention are also described.

Stoel-Gammon, C. (2001) Down syndrome phonology: Developmental patterns and intervention strategies. Down Syndrome Research and Practice, 7(3), 93-100.

A photograph of a child with Down syndrome

See and Learn Language and Reading is a structured teaching program that is designed to teach children with Down syndrome to talk and to read. The program is evidence-based and easy to use at home and at school.

Designed for children with Down syndrome. Available as apps or printed kits.

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