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Kelly Winders, Hanna Fisher, Tepanta Fossett, Ph.D.

Effectiveness of Intensive Early Intervention of Expressive and Receptive Vocabulary in Children with Down Syndrome through Play-Based Therapy

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Children with Down syndrome frequently display problems with both expressive and receptive vocabulary (Seager et al., 2022). Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome when born. Characteristics of a person with Down syndrome include mild-moderately low ranged IQ and delayed speech and language. This study will be conducted through a play-based model. Play based therapy is a type of therapy that supports language development and promotes oral language and increasing diverse vocabulary (Mcleod et al., 2017). It encourages motivation relevant to the child's interests.  

This study will evaluate the effectiveness of intensive early intervention of expressive and receptive vocabulary in children with Down syndrome through play-based therapy. Studies show that play based therapy helps children learn through exploring and helps develop and master physical and social interactions (Gokhale, 2014). It is expected that the intensive vocabulary intervention group will demonstrate higher expressive and receptive language at five years of age (beginning of school age) as compared with the children who did not receive play-based intensive vocabulary early intervention. 

According to Kaipa & Peterson (2016), intensity is a variable that needs to be considered when investigating the effects of vocabulary in treatment. Intensity treatments are inconsistent in reporting (Yoder et al., 2012).  This study will target intensity of vocabulary during intervention for children with Down syndrome. Trained speech language pathologists will deliver intensive intervention for thirty minutes two times a week for five years to increase expressive and receptive vocabulary. Results will be measured through number of utterances, non-verbal communication (use of AAC devices-numbers of time they will use the device), and number of intelligible approximations. Participants will be those diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth and who are receiving early intervention speech language services by the state. Twenty participants will be randomly assigned to two groups (intensive vocabulary intervention and non-intensive vocabulary intervention). 

It is hypothesized that intensive vocabulary through play-based early intervention with people with Down Syndrome will increase expressive and receptive vocabulary and positively improve communication overall. Results will show if intensive therapy is effective in improving expressive and receptive vocabulary in children with DS. The overall goal is to improve functional vocabulary in the early years of life. 


Gokhale, P. (2014). To study the effectiveness of play based therapy on play behavior of children with Down’s Syndrome. The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 46(2), 41–48.

Justice, L.M. (2018). Conceptualizing “dose” in pediatric language interventions: Current findings and future directions. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20, 318–323. doi:10.1080/17549507.2018.1454985 

Kaipa, R., & Peterson, A.M. (2016). A systematic review of treatment intensity in speech disorders. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18, 507–520. doi:10.3109/ 17549507.2015.1126640

McLeod, R. H., Hardy, J. K., & Kaiser, A. P. (2017). The effects of play-based intervention on vocabulary acquisition by preschoolers at risk for reading and language delays. Journal of Early Intervention, 39(2), 147–160.

Seager, E., Sampson, S., Sin, J., Pagnamenta, E., & Stojanovik, V. (2022). A systematic review of speech, language and communication interventions for children with down syndrome from 0 to 6 years. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 57(2), 441–463.

Yoder, P., Fey, M.E., & Warren, S.F. (2012). Studying the impact of intensity is important but complicated. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 14, 410–413. doi:10. 3109/17549507.2012.685890

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