Developmental Disabilities: Research and Resources Vocabulary acquisition in children with Down syndrome may not rely on verbal short-term memory to the same extent as in typically developing children and could involve an additional memory process, according to a recent study in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Researchers conducted three studies, each ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   November 01, 2011
Developmental Disabilities: Research and Resources
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Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   November 01, 2011
Developmental Disabilities: Research and Resources
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB.16142011.np
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB.16142011.np
Vocabulary-Learning in Children With Down Syndrome
Vocabulary acquisition in children with Down syndrome may not rely on verbal short-term memory to the same extent as in typically developing children and could involve an additional memory process, according to a recent study in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.
Researchers conducted three studies, each involving between 11 and 17 children with Down syndrome and 15 to 24 typically developingchildren matched for receptive vocabulary. All three studies examined novel word learning—some of which required phonological production. Results revealed that participants with Down syndrome learned novel words at levels exceeding the researchers’ expectations for their verbal short-term memory capacity.
Taken together, these studies suggest that individuals with Down syndrome are unimpaired on receptive word-learning tasks and expressive word-learning tasks, consistent with recent research suggesting an additional domain-general route to the learning of new words. Researchers suggest that when faced with new words, individuals with Down syndrome may benefit most from a more implicit and repetitive approach, and also suggest future work to investigate this possibility.
Nursery Rhymes Promote Literacy
Nursery rhyme experiences boost early literacy and language development of young children with or without disabilities or delays, according to a Center for Early Literacy Learning [PDF] review.
Researchers examined 13 studies involving 155 participants, ages 12 to 76 months; the studies evaluated the relationships between the children’s nursery rhyme knowledge and experiences, phonological awareness and print-related literacy, and language and communication development. The researchers used effect sizes (correlations) between the nursery rhyme and outcome measures to evaluate the strength of relationships between measures.
Results showed that measures of nursery rhyme knowledge and experiences were related to four of the major outcomes categories and all subcategories of outcome measures. Further comparisons indicated that the strength of the relationships between the nursery rhyme and the two literacy outcomes were larger for children with disabilities compared to children without disabilities.
Results indicate an empirical foundation for using nursery rhymes to enhance the early literacy and language learning of young children, including young children with developmental disabilities and delays.
Aiding Communication in Girls With Rett Syndrome
Teachers and speech-language pathologists can help girls with Rett syndrome achieve communicative and educational potential by varying the ways in which they communicate and by learning to recognize levels of alertness and types of responses in these girls, according to a recent study in Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.
The syndrome, an X-linked, neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs primarily in females, causes significant impairment in cognition, motor control, and communication. Researchers surveyed parents, teachers, and speech-language pathologists on the communication abilities of girls with the disorder. The mean number of participants’ communication modalities was three: eye gaze was used most frequently, followed by pictures/symbol boards and body movement.
Findings indicate that clinicians should evaluate all modalities and consider the influence of apraxia, delayed response time, and inconsistency in responding when planning interventions. Data and text responses also indicate that girls may use different modalities based on multiple factors, including seizure activity and level of awareness, and that an individual’s performance can vary greatly from day to day. The researchers called for more outcome data on effectiveness of types of interventions in this population.
Developmental Disabilities Resources

ASHA offers a series of policy documents on mental retardation and developmental disabilities, as well as policy documents concerning autism spectrum disorders. Links to articles, brochures, references, products, and other resources related to autism spectrum disorders are available at ASHA’s autism resources webpage.

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November 2011
Volume 16, Issue 14