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Research Highlights

Brief reports of recent research findings.

Families and schools influence academic achievements

Research by Stephen Turner and colleagues has identified both school and parental factors that influence the academic progress of children with Down syndrome through to their adult lives. Their findings demonstrate that, as with all children, cognitive abilities do predict progress - more able children at the start of schooling tended to make more academic progress - but school placement also had a significant effect even when starting abilities are taken into account. Children with Down syndrome who were educated in mainstream school classrooms had higher academic achievements in reading, writing and number which continued into their adult lives. In addition, progress was influenced by family factors. When parents are able to adopt a practical approach to coping with problems, look for sources of help and actively problem-solve, this style of functioning helps their children to achieve their potential. In addition, if parents feel that they, themselves, are 'in control' of their lives and make their own decisions – this also has a positive effect on their children's progress.


Precise descriptions of Down syndrome

This Research Highlight discusses two recent research papers reporting on the behavioural phenotype (or specific profile of strengths and weaknesses) associated with Down syndrome. This kind of information may be very helpful in alerting parents and professionals to the particular difficulties a child may have. It may also lead to the development of different approaches to treatment or interventions for children with different conditions – even when they all have similar global levels of delay as measured by mental ability tests.


Cholesterol levels and Alzheimer type dementia

Warren Zigman and colleagues have investigated the link between cholesterol levels and Alzheimer type dementia among adults with Down syndrome. Their research suggests that cholesterol is an important risk factor for Alzheimer's disease among people with Down syndrome and that perhaps cholesterol-lowering drugs could delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer type dementia. However, the authors note that clinical trials of statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) among the general population have not been encouraging and emphasise the need for rigorous clinical trials to establish a protective effect (if any) among older people with Down syndrome.


Exceptional reading among young people with Down syndrome

It seems unlikely that a child with Down syndrome will have age-appropriate reading skills yet show significant delay on measures of verbal and non-verbal mental age yet this is the pattern reported by Margriet Groen and colleagues in a detailed case study. This is a detailed and fascinating paper that provides a detailed account of the skills of a reader with Down syndrome. Reading ability is not the only strength observed. Exceptional speech skills, visual and verbal short-term memory skills and better expressive grammar are noted.

New from DSE: See and Learn Speech

See and Learn Speech is designed to help parents and educators support children with Down syndrome to develop clearer speech.

See and Learn Speech offers a structured approach to support speech development, working in small steps towards clearer speech production.

Now available as teaching kits and apps.

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