Semin Speech Lang 2021; 42(04): 330-344
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1730991
Review Article

Reading Skills in Down Syndrome: Implications for Clinical Practice

Susan J. Loveall
1  Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
Andrea Barton-Hulsey
2  School of Communication Science and Disorders at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
› Author Affiliations


Though children with Down syndrome can learn to read, they may have difficulty developing some component skills, including phonological awareness and word decoding. Given reading's foundation in language, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) should play a central role in supporting access to and providing reading instruction for children with Down syndrome. This article reviews the available research on reading in Down syndrome and offers guidance for SLPs working with this population. We start by reviewing the Down syndrome phenotype, highlighting physical features and cognitive and linguistic patterns of strength and weakness that impact reading development. Next, we define different reading subskills and outline typical reading development, including stages of prereading, learning to read, and transitioning to using reading as a tool for learning. We then use these stages to review what is known about reading in Down syndrome, including relevant intervention work. We also incorporate considerations for clinical practice. In particular, we encourage SLPs to advocate for supporting reading development in children with Down syndrome, to work with families to develop rich home literacy environments, and to work with educators to promote phonological awareness and decoding skills. Lastly, we note limitations in our current knowledge and include a call for more research.


No relevant financial or nonfinancial relationships exist for the first or second author.

Publication History

Publication Date:
26 July 2021 (online)

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