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Short-term memory and vocabulary development in children with Down syndrome and children with specific language impairment

  • Rachel F Hick (a1), Nicola Botting (a1) and Gina Conti-Ramsden (a1)

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.

Corresponding author
School of Psychological Sciences, Human Communication and Deafness, Humanities Building, Devas Street, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. E-mail:
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Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology
  • ISSN: 0012-1622
  • EISSN: 1469-8749
  • URL: /core/journals/developmental-medicine-and-child-neurology
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