Imitation and representational development in young children with Down syndrome

Wright, Ingram; Lewis, Vicky and Collis, Glyn M. (2006). Imitation and representational development in young children with Down syndrome. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 24(2) pp. 429–450.



Competence in object search and pretend play are argued to reflect young children's representational abilities and appear delayed in children with Down syndrome relative to social and imitative skills. This paper explores the effects on object search and play of this social strength in children with Down syndrome. Three experiments compared performance on traditional tasks with modified tasks designed to assess the role of imitation in object search and pretend play. Children with Down syndrome, relative to typically-developing children, were able and willing to imitate hiding actions when no object was hidden (Experiment 1). When imitation was prevented in object search, children with Down syndrome searched less effectively than typically-developing children (Experiment 2). In play, children with Down syndrome expressed more willingness to imitate a counter-functional action, modelled by the experimenter, despite apparent competence in spontaneous functional play (Experiment 3). These findings indicate that object search and play behaviours of children with Down syndrome rely more heavily on imitation than is the case for typically-developing children. The implications for the development of children with Down syndrome and models of representational development are discussed.

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