The development of representation in children with Down's Syndrome : coherence and stability
This thesis examines the development of representation in typically developing children and in young children with Down's Syndrome. The focus on representation allows us to adopt a general approach to development in infancy spanning domains such as motor development, language, object permanence, imitation, and symbolic play. Theoretical approaches to children with Down's Syndrome have been dominated by the `delay versus difference' controversy. This perspective suggests that development in children with Down's Syndrome should proceed with a sequence and structure similar to that observed in typically developing children. In this thesis it is argued, in contrast, that children with Down's Syndrome present a number of challenges to the organisational perspective. This thesis examines the strengths and weaknesses in the development of children with Down's Syndrome and attempts to identify the structural links between domains which are threatened by such a profile. These results of empirical studies detailed in this thesis suggest that development across domains such as language, motor development and object permanence appears to be relatively coherent. However, children with Down's Syndrome show subtle differences in their performance on object permanence and symbolic play tasks which suggests deviation from the typical pattern of structural coherence. Specifically, children with Down's Syndrome appear to adopt a more imitative strategy in solving object permanence tasks and in their symbolic play. The prevalence of imitation as a strategy may be indicative of a shallow level of processing. Alternatively, it may also be argued that children with Down's Syndrome adopt a different representational style in performing tasks. These subtle difference in the style with which children approach task suggest that the learning and consolidation process may differ between children with Down's Syndrome and the typically developing population. Such findings may have important consequences for intervention.