Research  |   August 2005
The Language Abilities of Bilingual Children With Down Syndrome
Author Notes
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions
Research   |   August 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: Accepted 16 May 2005 , Received 28 Oct 2004
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology August 2005, Vol.14, 187-199. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2005/019)
History: Accepted 16 May 2005 , Received 28 Oct 2004

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.

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