A longitudinal comparison was made between development of verbal and visuo-spatial short-term memory and vocabulary in children with Down syndrome (DS), children with specific language impairment (SLI), and typically developing children as a control group. Participants were 12 children with DS (6 males, 6 females; mean chronological age 9y 9mo [SD 2.8mo], range 8y 6mo to 11y 4mo); nine children with SLI (4 males, 5 females; mean chronological age 3y 9mo [SD 4.8mo], range 3y 3mo to 4y 5mo); and 12 typically developing children (5 males, 7 females; mean chronological age 4y 4mo [SD 3.9mo], range 3y 3mo to 4y 3mo). Participants were matched on mental age (mean mental age 4y 3mo). All participants completed verbal short-term memory, visuo-spatial short-term memory, and expressive and receptive vocabulary tasks on three occasions over 1 year. Similarities were seen in the clinical groups for verbal short-term memory. There was some evidence of difficulty in visuo-spatial short-term memory in the children with SLI relative to the other groups, but all three groups showed overlap in visuo-spatial short-term memory performance. At the final time-point vocabulary performance in the clinical groups was similar; the typically developing children showed higher vocabulary abilities than both clinical groups.
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