Despite parental concerns about young people with Down syndrome talking out loud to themselves (using private speech), there is virtually no research literature on this behavior. In that which exists, investigators have largely interpreted the behavior within a pathological framework. An alternative perspective is that self-talk is developmentally appropriate for these young people. Parents of 78 young people with Down syndrome, age 17 to 24 years, were asked whether their offspring had ever used private speech. Results confirm the universality of private speech and its developmental pattern. No association was found between private speech and behavior problems, communication difficulties, or social isolation. Talking out loud to self by young people with Down syndrome should be seen as adaptive, and not an indication of pathology.
This research was supported by a grant from the Down's Syndrome Association, UK. We thank the young people and parents of the Manchester Down syndrome cohort for their continuing cooperation in this research. Thanks are also extended to Helen Fitzpatrick for her assistance with data collection.