Research Project: Bilingualism in Down’s Syndrome

Recruiting families for involvement in influential new research into language development

by Rebecca Ward, PhD Student, School of Linguistics and English Language, Bangor University


Background

Language impairments are often a common aspect experienced within individuals with Down syndrome, and children are found to have a greater understanding of language than of spoken or productive abilities. Research in the field of language development within children with Down’s syndrome has primarily focused on language development of children in one language only, however, there is a considerable number of bilingual speakers across the world, including in Wales where the Welsh language has an official status. The patterns of language development within bilinguals with Down’s syndrome is, therefore, an area requiring investigation. 

Bilingualism in Down’s Syndrome

There is very limited research to date that is available to guide families who are bilingual, in terms of their decision to expose their children to a second language when it comes to a decision of schooling and home language use. Previous research has compared the language abilities of bilinguals and monolinguals with Down’s syndrome by comparing groups on measures of receptive and expressive vocabularies. The findings of this research report that the language abilities of the children were comparable across the groups of bilingual and monolinguals. Therefore, the addition of a second language may not be a detriment to language acquisition as some may assume, and there may potentially be some benefits of being bilingual.

New Study

This study will investigate any differences in the language development of children with Down’s syndrome who speak two languages, compared to those who speak one. The project will specifically be looking at Welsh-English bilinguals and will assess the language abilities of these children in terms of language comprehension, production, grammar and their knowledge of various units of speech, such as alliterations and rhymes. These skills have also been closely related to reading and spelling abilities. In addition, parents will be asked to complete a background questionnaire to gain an understanding of the children’s language backgrounds. We are looking for families to take part who have a child with Down’s syndrome between the ages of 5-18, who are Welsh-English bilinguals, or who only speak English.

Some of the questions that we hope to answer are:

  • What are the language abilities of children with Down’s syndrome who are bilingual or monolingual?
  • Are there areas of language development that are more challenging for these individuals?
  • How does their language development compare for children who speak two languages compared to those who speak one?

How to Take Part

If you are interested in taking part in the research or would like some more information, please contact me via email: Rebecca.Ward@bangor.ac.uk.

Alternatively, you can send a letter to: Rebecca Ward, School of Linguistics and English Language, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2DG. The research can be conducted at a suitable location for you, whether this is at your home, school or other convenient location.

We hope that this research will provide a new insight into the bilingual and monolingual language development in Down syndrome that will assist families in making informed language choices, as well as implications for clinical practice and education policy in Wales.

This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Rebecca Ward, PhD Student

School of Linguistics and English Language
Bangor University
Bangor, Gwynedd. LL57 2DG

Email: Rebecca.Ward@bangor.ac.uk

or

Dr Eirini Sanoudaki, Senior Lecturer in Language Acquisition

School of Linguistics and English Language
Bangor University
LL57 2DG.

Email: e.sanoudaki@bangor.ac.uk