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Summaries of recent advances in research and practice.

The power of behavioural approaches

Behavioural approaches can be used very effectively to teach new skills and to change behaviours that are challenging and not socially adaptive. In this Update, discussing two recently published Case Studies, Sue Buckley argues that they may have gone out of fashion but should be revived.

Is there a link between folate metabolism and Down syndrome?

This Update by David Patterson provides a review of studies that have looked at the link between folate metabolism and the risk of Down syndrome. Folate is an important vitamin that plays an important part in several complex metabolic pathways, including those leading to the synthesis of DNA and RNA. As it contributes to cell division and growth it is of particular importance during infancy and pregnancy. Many genes are involved in these complex metabolic pathways, and it has been suggested that certain versions (polymorphisms) of some of these genes can increase the risk of conceiving a baby with Down syndrome. Studies to date have found conflicting results, suggesting that these gene variants may be part of a more complex picture. This article reviews these challenging findings and looks at where investigations can now go to resolve these issues.

Improving memory

It has been known for a long while that children with Down syndrome have specific impairments in verbal short-term memory. This Update summarises research indicating that memory training activities may be effective.

Using mice models to understand the developmental biology of Down syndrome

Photograph of mice

The first of these two Updates describes how scientists are using genetically engineered mice that carry additional copies of genes comparable to those present on human chromosome 21 to understand the developmental biology of Down syndrome. The second of these Updates presents a summary of research showing that these mice performed better on memory tests when treated with drugs that target brain function. Could this be an important break-through in the search for pharmacological therapies to assist people with Down syndrome?

Teaching numeracy

Understanding number concepts and basic mathematical skills is important for many everyday activities in modern societies. Little is understood about the numeracy abilities of people with Down syndrome. At present, it appears that numeracy is an area of relative difficulty and that progress with more complex mathematical understanding is slow. However, some teaching approaches that seek to utilise certain relative strengths to communicate number concepts seem to be useful in practice. This Update discusses the research needed to define the precise difficulties experienced by children with Down syndrome and to evaluate teaching strategies.

Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome (RLI)

DSE's Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome (RLI) is an evidence-based programme designed to teach reading and language skills to children with Down syndrome.

RLI incorporates best practice in structured activities delivered in fast-paced daily teaching sessions. It was evaluated in a randomised controlled trial and found to improve rates of progress compared to ordinary teaching.

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