The efficacy of 'whole word' versus 'analytic' reading instruction for children with Down syndrome

Linda Cupples*, Teresa Iacono

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    59 Citations (Scopus)


    An intervention study was conducted to investigate whether children with Down syndrome (DS) would benefit from an 'analytic' approach to reading instruction, which encompassed explicit training in phonological awareness. Participants were seven English-speaking children with DS aged 8;6 (years;months) to 11;1, who demonstrated little or no nonword-reading ability prior to intervention. The children received weekly instruction (for six weeks) in reading aloud 30 regularly spelt monosyllables (e.g., ten, bake) using an 'analytic' approach, in which words were learned by combining onsets with rimes (four children), or a 'whole-word' approach (three children). Participants' oral reading was assessed pre- and post-intervention using a reading test comprising the 30 trained words and 30 untrained (generalisation) words. Most children (six out of seven) read more training words correctly after intervention than before, with significant improvement shown by four children (two trained analytically, and two trained with whole words). More importantly, reading of generalisation words improved significantly in only three children, all of whom had received analytic training. It was concluded that children with DS benefit from an analytic approach to reading instruction, even though their auditory-verbal memory (assessed using digit span) is poor.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)549-574
    Number of pages26
    JournalReading and Writing
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


    • Down syndrome
    • Intellectual disability
    • Intervention
    • Phonological awareness
    • Reading instruction


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