Personal narrative skills of school-aged children with Down syndrome
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Background: Personal narratives are descriptions of past events experienced by the speaker and are one of the most commonly found forms of narration in children. The ability to tell personal narratives is considered critical for socio-emotional wellbeing and academic performance. Aims: This study investigated the personal narrative skills of 25 children with Down syndrome (age 5;11-13;1 years) who attended predominantly mainstream primary schools in New Zealand and were classified as beginning readers. Methods & Procedures: Personal narrative samples were elicited by the children's speech-language therapists using a standard protocol commonly used with New Zealand children. Children were shown a series of 11 photographs with scripted introductory prompts and were asked if anything like that ever happened to them. Transcribed samples were analysed on measures of mean length of utterance in morphemes (MLU-M), semantics (number of different words; NDW), and personal narrative quality (PNQ). Outcomes & Results: Consistent with previous research, results showed wide variability in performance. Although 92% of the children produced at least 50 utterances in response to the prompts, in general MLU-M was very low (mean = 2.67, SD = 1.04). NDW ranged from 19 to 126 (mean = 61.52, SD = 25.39). Regression analyses showed no significant effect for age on MLU-M (p = 0.094), nor on PNQ. There was a significant effect for age on NDW (p = 0.03), with performance improving with age. Analysis of PNQ revealed that only four children (ages 9;11-12;7) were able to relate a personal narrative containing a high point. Correlational analyses indicated significant correlations between PNQ, MLU-M, NDW and performance on a standardized reading test. Conclusions&Implications: The findings highlight the difficulties children withDown syndrome have in producing personal narratives, despite exposure to a national English curriculum that encourages children to develop and convey 'personal voice'. Clinical implications of these findings will be presented.
International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders
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Special Education and Disability