Exploring the effect of bilingualism on the communicative abilities of children who have Down’s syndrome


Supervisor: Gabriella Rundblad, Eloi Puig Mayenco

Non-accademic partner: Down's Syndrome Association

Studentship start date: 01/10/2023

Application deadline: 13/02/2023

Application details: For further information on how to apply for this full time studentship please get in touch with the supervisor.

Gabriella Rundblad:

Eloi Puig Mayenco

For more information and the application form click here.

In this project we focus on an understudied population, that of bilingual children with Down’s Syndrome in a context where bilingualism is not supported at the societal level. Children with Down’s Syndrome are known to have language delays and language learning difficulties (Abbeduto et al., 2007; Ypsilanti & Grouios, 2008), however, the majority of research on this population has focused exclusively on children from one-language backgrounds. Given that bilingualism is an important feature of the increasingly multicultural societies in the UK and globally, understanding the impact of bilingual exposure is crucial to providing the appropriate support for these children. Just as an example, in discussions with Speech and Language Therapists in the Down’s Syndrome Association of the UK, they have said that around 25% of the children they work with on a day-to-day basis come from bilingual backgrounds. It is true there is some work that has been done exploring the effects of bilingualism on the language development of children with Down’s Syndrome, but all this research has been conducted in contexts where bilingualism is in fact supported societally as in Wales or Quebec (e.g., Burgoyne, et al. 2015; Trudeau, et al 2011;Ward and Sanoudaki, 2020; Woll & Grove, 1996). Therefore, the aim of this project is to explore a context where bilingualism is restricted to the home environment, that of migrant families in England. To the best of our knowledge, this will be the first project exploring this population.

This project involves a collaboration with the Down’s Syndrome Association of the UK, who will provide mentorship and guidance throughout the project and will integrate the student into their language advisory services and allow them to do an internship to develop materials regarding bilingualism and Down Syndrome for (para-)practitioners and families and get first-hand experience inworking alongside Speech and Language Therapist and bilingual families. The PhD student will also become an active member of the research community within the School of Education, Communication and Society at King’sCollege London.