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J Intellect Disabil Res. 2015 Sep;59(9):860-72. doi: 10.1111/jir.12189. Epub 2015 Feb 17.

Relationship between motor skill competency and executive function in children with Down's syndrome.

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Department of Sport & Exercise Science, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany.



Previous studies suggest that children with Down's syndrome (DS), a genetically based neurodevelopmental disorder, demonstrate motor problems and cognitive deficits. The first aim of this study was to examine motor skills and executive functions (EFs) in school-age children with DS. The second aim was to investigate the relationship between these two performance domains.


The Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD-2), the Movement Assessment Battery Children-2 checklist (MABC2-checklist) and the Trail-Making Test for young children (Trails-P) were used to assess motor and cognitive performances of 18 children (11 boys, 7 girls) with DS aged between 7 and 11 years (9.06 ± 0.96) and an age- and sex-matched sample of 18 typically developing (TD) children (11 boys, 7 girls; 8.99 ± 0.93).


Individuals with DS showed the expected difficulties in attentional control, response suppression and distraction, as well as in locomotor and object control skills, as indicated by poorer performance than TD individuals. Motor performance (bottom-up as well as top-down measures) and EF correlated positively, with regard to the group with DS only though. In the most complex task (distraction), the children of the DS group achieving lower locomotor scores showed lower efficacy scores on the Trails-P. Additionally, strong relationships were found for the perspective of teachers on all sections of the MABC2-Checklist and EF.


The findings from this study suggest that children with DS are not only impaired in higher-order EF, but showing also deficits in locomotor and object control skills. This study stresses the importance of early interventions facilitating cognitive abilities and motor skills.


Down's syndrome; TGMD-2; TMT; executive function; intellectual disability; motor skill competency

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