Skip to main content
NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

NIH Team Develops Language Test for People with Down Syndrome

Little girl with Down syndrome smiles and gestures thumbs up

NICHD explores better ways to evaluate expressive language in people with Down syndrome.

Photo: DenKuvaiev/istock/getty

An NIH research team developed a test to evaluate the expressive language skills of people with Down syndrome, a condition resulting from an extra copy or piece of chromosome 21. Language delays are common in people with Down syndrome. The study authors believe their test could more effectively evaluate prospective language interventions. The study, funded by NICHD and NCATS, appears in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The 107 study participants ranged from 6 to 23 years old, and all had an IQ of 70 or less. Researchers engaged the participants in conversation, which was recorded, transcribed and scored on the basis of talkativeness, vocabulary, sentence structure and other aspects of spoken language. When the participants repeated the same test 4 weeks later, test scores were consistent, an indication of the test’s reliability. 

Participants whose language was limited to basic phrases and those who had a developmental level below 4 years of age had difficulty completing the test. Additional studies are needed to develop other measures for those with more limited spoken language skills.

Back to Top