Author(s): Chapman RS
Children and adolescents with Down syndrome show an emerging profile of speech and language characteristics that is typical of the syndrome (Chapman & Hesketh, 2000; Chapman, 2003; Abbeduto & Chapman, 2005) and different from typically developing children matched for nonverbal mental age, including expressive language deficits relative to comprehension that are most severe for syntax, and, in adolescence, strengths in comprehension vocabulary, improvements in expressive syntax, but losses in comprehension of syntax (Chapman, Hesketh & Kistler, 2002). Here we compare 20 adolescents with Down syndrome to 16 individuals with cognitive impairment of unknown origin, statistically matched for age and nonverbal mental age, to show that the age-related strengths in vocabulary comprehension are not limited to the Down syndrome phenotype, but are limited to a certain type of vocabulary test: for both groups, performance on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-3 is significantly greater than performance on the vocabulary subtest of the Test of Auditory Comprehension of Language-3, which does not differ from the syntax comprehension subtests. Vocabulary size, but not conceptual level, is a strength for adolescents with cognitive impairment. In contrast, deficits in auditory-verbal working memory, syntax and vocabulary comprehension, and narration of picture-books without an opportunity to preview them are all specific to the adolescent group with Down syndrome. The expressive language deficit disappears when a preview opportunity and picture support is given.