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Giving children with Down Syndrome the tools they need to learn – University of Reading

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Giving children with Down Syndrome the tools they need to learn

Release Date 13 September 2018

Child with Down Syndrome

Children with Down Syndrome could benefit from new research at the University of Reading that is teaching children and adults how to learn.

Prof Vesna Stojanovik at the University of Reading has found through a study of children with Down Syndrome (DS) aged between one and two years old that giving parents new tools that help to break down barriers to learning can improve language development in these children.


Vanessa Nicholls, mother of a child with Downs Syndrome, who lives in Berkshire, founded a charity ‘Breakthrough learning’ to transform the lives of children and adults by developing learning and thinking skills. She is collaborating with Prof Stojanovik on research working with school age children with DS. The project will test a ‘mediated learning’ intervention that will give DS children a strategy for understanding how learning takes place.

You can attend the International Down Syndrome research forum by registering at:


Prof Vesna Stojanovik, Associate Professor at the University of Reading says:

“Children with DS learn and develop skills in different ways - they may not develop language skills in the same way as other children, but given the right learning environment their language development improves.”

Helping children with Down Syndrome to develop language skills differently is more likely to be effective according to a new paper that has been published by Prof Stojanovik.


The article in Research in Developmental Disabilities found that there were significant differences between ‘typically developing’ children and those with DS in terms of skills and ability that may predict language development.


The group of typically developing children demonstrated that they are able to follow cues such as following a pointed finger to pinpoint an object from their parent or carer, and these cues help them label items; this is one of the first steps towards building vocabulary.


Prof Stojanovik continued: 

“Our research has suggested that infants under two (from 9-10mths) generally pick up cues, but that some children with Down Syndrome often don’t pick up on these cues as effectively. Children with DS who were better at picking up on these visual cues at 18 months had better language skills 12 months later.

Dr Stojanovik will be hosting an international Down Syndrome research forum at the University of Reading on 17-18 September 2018. The first day of the event focuses on ways to improve services and education for young people with DS and aims to involve parents/carers. Further details are available at:

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