New test to study language development in youth with Down syndrome

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A team tested and validated elaborated language sampling (ELS) as a reliable set of procedures for collecting, measuring and analyzing the spoken language of youth with Down syndrome in a naturalistic setting. They found that ELS can be used to detect meaningful changes in communication skills of individuals with Down syndrome.
Expressive language sampling (ELS) is a useful tool for measuring communication development in youth with Down syndrome, a new multi-site study has found.

The study, co-led by Angela Thurman and Leonard Abbeduto from the UC Davis MIND Institute and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, focused on language as an outcome measure to detect meaningful changes in communication skills of individuals with Down syndrome. It successfully tested and validated ELS as a reliable set of procedures for collecting, measuring and analyzing the spoken language of participants interacting in a naturalistic setting.

Down syndrome and language delays

Down syndrome is the leading genetic cause of intellectual disability. Approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome. Individuals with Down syndrome frequently have speech and language delays that might severely affect their independence and successful community inclusion.

"Interventions leading to improvements in language would have great impacts on the quality of life of individuals with Down syndrome," said Abbeduto, director of the UC Davis MIND Institute, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and senior author of the study. "To develop and evaluate such interventions, we need a validated measurement tool and ELS provides that."

The ELS procedure

During the ELS procedure, researchers collect samples of participants' speech during two types of natural interactions: conversation and narration.

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In conversation, trained examiners engage participants on a variety of…
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