The Language Abilities of Bilingual Children With Down Syndrome Children with Down syndrome (DS) have cognitive disabilities resulting from trisomy 21. Language-learning difficulties, especially expressive language problems, are an important component of the phenotype of this population. Many individuals with DS are born into bilingual environments. To date, however, there is almost no information available regarding the capacity of ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 2005
The Language Abilities of Bilingual Children With Down Syndrome
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird
    Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Patricia Cleave
    Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Natacha Trudeau
    Université de Montréal and l'hôpital Sainte-Justine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Elin Thordardottir
    McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Ann Sutton
    Université de Montréal and l'hôpital Sainte-Justine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Amy Thorpe
    Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Contact author: Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird, School of Human Communication Disorders, Dalhousie University, 5599 Fenwick Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 1R2, Canada. Email: rainbird@dal.ca
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Language Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 2005
The Language Abilities of Bilingual Children With Down Syndrome
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2005, Vol. 14, 187-199. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2005/019)
History: Received October 28, 2004 , Accepted May 16, 2005
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2005, Vol. 14, 187-199. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2005/019)
History: Received October 28, 2004; Accepted May 16, 2005
Web of Science® Times Cited: 26

Children with Down syndrome (DS) have cognitive disabilities resulting from trisomy 21. Language-learning difficulties, especially expressive language problems, are an important component of the phenotype of this population. Many individuals with DS are born into bilingual environments. To date, however, there is almost no information available regarding the capacity of these individuals to acquire more than 1 language. The present study compared the language abilities of 8 children with DS being raised bilingually with those of 3 control groups matched on developmental level: monolingual children with DS (n=14), monolingual typically developing (TD) children (n=18), and bilingual TD children (n=11). All children had at least 100 words in their productive vocabularies but a mean length of utterance of less than 3.5. The bilingual children spoke English and 1 other language and were either balanced bilinguals or English-dominant. English testing was completed for all children using the following: the Preschool Language Scale, Third Edition; language sampling; and the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories (CDI). Bilingual children were also tested in the second language using a vocabulary comprehension test, the CDI, and language sampling. Results provided evidence of a similar profile of language abilities in bilingual children as has been documented for monolingual children with DS. There was no evidence of a detrimental effect of bilingualism. That is, the bilingual children with DS scored at least as well on all English tests as their monolingual DS counterparts. Nonetheless, there was considerable diversity in the second-language abilities demonstrated by these individuals with DS. Clinical implications are addressed.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by Grants 410-97-0819 and 410-2000-1409 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird, principal investigator, and coinvestigators. We thank the participants and parents for their generous help. Thanks to the many research assistants that have provided important assistance on this project, especially Nicole Carty, Jennifer Cupit, Lana Demers, Glen Nowell, Anna Randall-Gryz, Monica Rios, and Renee St. Pierre. Thanks also to the Mackay Center and l'hôpital Sainte-Justine, Centre de readaptation Marie-Enfant, both in Montreal, for their kind support of this work.
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