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Longitudinal predictors of early language in infants with Down syndrome: a preliminary study

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Purpose: Children with Down syndrome (DS) typically have marked delays in language development relative to their general cognitive development, with particular difficulties in expressive compared to receptive language. Although early social communication skills, including gestures and joint attention, have been shown to be related to later language outcomes in DS, knowledge is limited as to whether these factors exclusively predict outcomes, or whether other factors (e.g. perceptual and non-verbal skills) are involved. This study addressed this question.

Method: Longitudinal data for a group of infants with DS (n = 14) and a group of typically-developing (TD) infants (n = 35) were collected on measures that have been shown to predict language in TD infants and/or those with developmental delays. These included: non-verbal mental ability, speech segmentation skills, and early social communication skills (initiating and responding to joint attention, initiating behavioural requests).

Results: Linear regression analyses showed that speech segmentation and initiating joint attention were the strongest predictors of later language in the TD group, whereas non-verbal mental ability and responding to joint attention were the strongest predictors of later language for infants with DS.

Conclusions: Speech segmentation ability may not determine language outcomes in DS, and language acquisition may be more constrained by social communication and general cognitive skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-51
Number of pages15
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online date10 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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