Effective Vocabulary Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome

The focus of this project, financed by the FINNUT programme of the Norwegian Research Counsil, is to enhance the quality of vocabulary learning in children with Down syndrome. 


  • The primary objective of the current study is to develop an effective language intervention for children with developmental disabilities: to increase their vocabulary breadth and depth with a view to improving language skills.
  • A secondary objective is to design a rigorous study to allow for theoretical development and methodological discussions within the field of language research involving children with intellectual disabilities.
Background and Relevance
Down syndrome is the most common biological cause of intellectual disabilities. Children with this diagnosis are at risk of language impairment. Since language functioning in early school years tends to have a marked influence on inclusion in society as well as success in education and working life efficacy research is urgent needed to establish best language intervention practice for these children. 

A new language intervention programme for children with Down syndrome, called “DSL+,” will be developed. To test both the direct and transfer effects of the programme, a national age cohort of six-year olds with Down syndrome will be randomly allocated to either an experiment group or a control group. The programme focuses on both systematic training and natural dialogue with special education teachers, teachers and classmates, based on picture books and related visual materials. Importantly, the material will also be implemented as a text-free iPad app, making it easily transferable to a variety of settings, and adaptable to other languages. Prior to the intervention, distance learning methods will also be used to train teachers and special education teachers in this new evidence-based approach.

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