Cognitive Variation in Down Syndrome

Historically persons with Down syndrome have been considered to inevitably demonstrate moderate to severe cognitive/mental impairment. More recent findings suggest however, that persons with Down syndrome experience much variation in both cognitive and motor development. Learning abilities in children with Down syndrome, as evidenced by IQ scores, may range over 50-60 points. This spread in IQ score is similar to the range seen in the general population, although displaced somewhat to the lower end of the distribution. While it is true that some children and adults with Down syndrome experience severe levels of cognitive disability, most fall into the mild to moderate range of intellectual disability. A small percentage of persons with Down syndrome demonstrate levels of intelligence approaching "normal".

Inclusive educational opportunities and behavioral interventions often help promote the mastery of developmental milestones in children with Down syndrome. It is now considered that some non-genetic, environmental, or psychological factors may contribute to learning failure in children with Down syndrome, and these issues are currently under study. Each child or adult with Down syndrome is entitled to the support needed to reach his or her optimum level of cognitive achievement.

Some of the above material adapted from:

Wishart, J.G. (2004). Cognitive development in young children with Down syndrome: Developmental strengths, developmental weaknesses [Electronic version]. Originally published in: Down syndrome in the 21st century: 1st Biennial scientific conference on Down syndrome. Retrieved, September 8th, 2004, from http://www.altonweb.com/cs/downsyndrome/wishart.html