Down's Syndrome And Expressive Language

Down’s syndrome is a developmental delay that occurs because of a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. The condition is typically associated with impairment of physical growth and cognitive ability. Sue Buckley performed a study to determine if it was possible to improve the language and speech of teenagers with Down’s syndrome. Previous studies have found that in children with Down’s syndrome, the development of vocabulary is less delayed than grammar and the production of grammar is more delayed than the comprehension of grammar. Studies have also shown that using language to communicate and speech production are both relatively well developed in children and adults with Down’s syndrome. Buckley wanted to discover whether or not an intervention could improve the development of morpho-syntax (grammar), if teaching using reading activities would be more effective in improving the grammatical competence than only using speech practice, if teaching will improve comprehension of grammar and production of grammar equally, and if intervention can close the “gaps between non-verbal mental ability and language abilities”.

Buckley’s study focused on twelve students with Down’s syndrome ranging between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. The study incorporated an intervention program that lasted through the duration of one school year. The data collected throughout the study suggest that intervention and training methods which focus specifically on grammar can produce significant gains in both comprehension and production. Buckley was also able to conclude, as demonstrated by previous studies, that the speech and reading teaching method was more effective than the speech only method in reaching significant gains in grammar comprehension and production in adolescents with Down’s syndrome.

Buckley’s findings support the information posted on the introduction to developmental delays wikki site. Providing children and adolescents with Down’s syndrome with educational experiences that “engage and encourage them” is proven to be worth the challenge. Supplying these children with an intervention program that focuses on the development of morpho-syntax through both reading and speech practice will improve their grammatical competence. Buckley mentions in her study that it would be of great value to test the long-term benefits of teaching through reading and speech practice over the course of a child’s lifetime. The results of Buckley’s study and the information posted on the introduction wikki page stating that, “developmental delays typically require an individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, supports or other assistance that is lifelong or extended duration and is individually planned,” make me believe that providing students with Down’s syndrome with an educational plan that incorporates reading to teach the language will ultimately allow them to dramatically improve their reading, writing, and conversational skills. Educators who teach and interact with children and adolescents with Down’s syndrome must implement reading into their teaching of language while continuing to provide them with the opportunity for speech practice.


Buckley, Sue. (1999). Improving the expressive language skills of teenagers with Down’s
syndrome. The Down Syndrome Educational Trust. 3(3) 110-115.

This page has been provided by Emily Greenlee