Students with the condition tend to have a limited short-term memory, meaning they struggle to store information, which in turn hinders their learning – especially when it comes to learning words, grammar and reading.
However, a study by researchers at the University of Portsmouth and Down Syndrome Education International found that memory training on computers in a school setting improves visual short-term memory.
Furthermore, this improvement was sustained up to four months after the training stopped.
Lead researcher, Dr Stephanie Bennett of the University of Portsmouth, said the preliminary study could prompt further research in the area.
She added: “We are really excited about the findings. We were unsure whether it would be feasible to deliver this kind of training in a school setting, but now we know that it is, researchers can go forward and explore it further.
“The children all worked really hard to complete the training activities, and each child’s dedicated teaching assistant was key to making this happen, as they provided excellent support and encouragement throughout the study.”
The study involved 21 children with Down syndrome aged between seven and 12 and took place in 19 different schools over 10 to 12 weeks. The children used a computer program called Cogmed JM which includes seven different activities presented as games. They spent 15 to 30 minutes a day on the programme, three times a week.
The study has been published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.