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Examining the Relationship between Play and Executive Function in Toddlers with Down Syndrome


The present study explored the associations between executive function skills and play ability in toddlers with Down Syndrome (DS). Participants included 79 children with DS (mean age= 38 months; 53% female). Executive function ability was measured via parent report (BRIEF-P) and three child tasks (Memory Tower Task, EF Search Task, and the Persistence Puzzle Task). Play ability was measured via the Structured Play Assessment. Higher diversity of play acts predicted higher working memory ability and planning ability, while higher play level predicted better planning/persistence. Results suggest that play level and diversity of play can predict some aspects of EF (memory, planning, persistence), but not others (inhibition/shift from the Search Task) in this sample of toddlers with Down syndrome. Future research would benefit from larger samples that may address generalizability of study findings. Improving school readiness, as well as social and academic outcomes, in children with DS are critical research targets for this population during this developmental period. The results of this study may inform and support the development of interventions to better target improving these proficiencies.

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