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This paper reports 3 studies comparing the reading and phonological skills of children with Down syndrome (DS) and younger normally developing children of similar reading level. In Study 1, the two groups did not differ in sight word or nonword reading, but the children with DS did marginally less well on syllable segmentation, rhyme and phoneme detection tasks. Group differences in syllable and phoneme awareness appeared attributable to differences in verbal ability (BPVS, vocabulary knowledge); however, a significant impairment in rhyme detection remained in an analysis of sub-groups equated in vocabulary knowledge. The deficit in rhyme observed in DS was replicated in Studies 2 and 3 using simplified tests of rhyme judgement, with the majority of children with DS performing at chance on the rhyme measures. In contrast, the two groups did not differ in their ability to detect phonemes in any of the 3 studies and performed above chance in initial phoneme detection and alliteration judgement tasks, although the identification of final phonemes was at a much lower level. Correlational analyses indicated a relationship between phonological skills and reading in both groups. However, for children with DS, letter-sound knowledge did not predict reading whereas it did for normal controls. It is suggested that children with DS do not possess full phoneme awareness; although they can identify initial phonemes in words, they do not understand phoneme invariance and may rely less on phonological skills for reading than controls. © 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.


Journal article


Reading and Writing

Publication Date





471 - 495