The benefit of orthographic support for oral vocabulary learning in children with Down syndrome

J Child Lang. 2013 Jan;40(1):221-43. doi: 10.1017/S0305000912000396.


Children with Down syndrome typically have weaknesses in oral language, but it has been suggested that this domain may benefit from learning to read. Amongst oral language skills, vocabulary is a relative strength, although there is some evidence of difficulties in learning the phonological form of spoken words. This study investigated the effect of orthographic support on spoken word learning with seventeen children with Down syndrome aged seven to sixteen years and twenty-seven typically developing children aged five to seven years matched for reading ability. Ten spoken nonwords were paired with novel pictures; for half the nonwords the written form was also present. The spoken word learning of both groups did not differ and benefited to the same extent from the presence of the written word. This suggests that compared to reading-matched typically developing children, children with Down syndrome are not specifically impaired in phonological learning and benefit equally from orthographic support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Down Syndrome / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Development*
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Teaching / methods
  • Teaching Materials
  • Verbal Learning*
  • Vocabulary*