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Reading, language and memory skills: a comparative longitudinal study of children with Down syndrome and their mainstream peers

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Background: Many of today's young adults with Down syndrome never had the opportunity to learn to read. However, an increasing number of children with Down syndrome are currently attending mainstream schools and being taught to read. As a consequence, it is now possible to systematically study reading development in children with Down syndrome. Aims: The aim of this study was to chart the development of reading, language, and memory skills in children with Down syndrome and to investigate the relationships between these abilities. Sample: Twenty-four children with Down syndrome aged between 4 and 12 were followed over two years and compared to 31 children matched for reading age, and 42 children of average reading ability, selected from the same mainstream classes as the children with Down syndrome. Method: Standardised assessments were administered annually to obtain measures of reading, spelling, language, memory, and general intelligence. Results: The children with Down syndrome had relatively advanced single word reading ability compared to their other cognitive skills. The reading progress of the children with Down syndrome did not differ significantly from that of the reading matched group even after two years. Different cognitive abilities were highly correlated with one another in all groups. However, after controlling for age, many of the partial correlations between reading and the other measures were reduced to non-significant levels. Conclusions: Most children with Down syndrome are capable of learning to read single words. However, there was no evidence over this two-year period to support the hypothesis that learning to read will help to enhance language and memory development in children with Down syndrome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-529
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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