The Basics About Down Syndrome




Down syndrome is thought to be the most common genetic causes of cognitive impairment.  This condition has been found to occur in approximately 1 in 800 live births.  Down syndrome results from an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Children with Down syndrome often exhibit issues with their learning and processing of information.  Specific concerns that are often seen in individuals with a diagnosis of Down syndrome include:girl with down syndrome

  • Moderate cognitive impairment
  • Weakness with grammatical aspects of language
  • Impairments with verbal short term memory
  • Weakness with daily living skills

Children with the syndrome do show areas of relative strength and it is important to utilize these areas to help develop additional skills and compensate for areas of concern.  Domains that are often seen as a relative strengths include:

  • Spatial reasoning tasks
  • Visual memory
  • Social skills

There have been numerous studies which indicate a multi-tiered treatment approach can be beneficial to help children with a diagnosis of Down syndrome, including:

  • Speech and language therapy with possibly teaching sign language
  • Use of a visually based intervention teaching reading and vocabulary skills
  • Emphasis on the development of phonological awareness to improve reading
  • Use of rehearsal and repetition to enhance memory skills.
  • Occupational therapy for sensory integration and motor development
  • Parent training to emphasize the use of structure and planning


Hunter, S & Donders, J., eds. (2007)  Pediatric Neuropsychological Intervention