Original Research

Parental Perceptions and Practices of Emergent Literacy Development in Young Children with Down Syndrome: The Development of Intervention Guidelines

Cherié van Heerden, Alta Kritzinger
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 55, No 1 | a768 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v55i1.768 | © 2020 Cherié van Heerden, Alta Kritzinger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 April 2020 | Published: 31 December 2008

About the author(s)

Cherié van Heerden, Clinic for High Risk Babies (CHRIB) Centre, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Alta Kritzinger, Clinic for High Risk Babies (CHRIB) Centre, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Key findings of emergent literacy research conclude that emergent literacy experiences correlate with later reading success and that emergent literacy intervention for children with special needs is essential. As a group with special needs, children with Down syndrome require emergent literacy intervention. They may attain functional literacy skills and their language development determines their reading ability. Speech-language therapists have an important role to play in emergent literacy programme development in South Africa. As a first step towards programme development and emergent literacy intervention goal selection, the aim of this study was to determine the applicability of a self-administered questionnaire to describe parental perceptions and practices regarding the emergent literacy development of their young children with Down syndrome. A quantitative research approach was used within a cross-sectional descriptive survey. Fifteen literate parents, with preschool children with Down syndrome aged between two and five years were selected as participants. Data were collected via email and/or facsimile. The results showed that all participants valued emergent literacy development. They appeared to have knowledge about book-reading but not about the broad spectrum of emergent literacy experiences to which they might expose their children. Participants were actively promoting emergent literacy development of their children, but they had certain needs that could potentially be addressed by speech-language therapists working in early communication intervention. The questionnaire proved to be applicable, but changes are required for application with illiterate parents and those with low literacy skills. Based on the results a framework with guidelines for emergent literacy goal selection is provided.


Emergent literacy development; parental perceptions; emergent literacy intervention; Down syndrome; early communication intervention


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