BACKGROUND: Measures of general cognitive and adaptive ability in adults with Down syndrome (DS) used by previous studies vary substantially. This review summarises the different ability measures used previously, focusing on tests of intelligence quotient (IQ) and adaptive behaviour (AB), and where possible examines floor effects and differences between DS subpopulations. We aimed to use information regarding existing measures to provide recommendations for individual researchers and the DS research community.

RESULTS: Nineteen studies reporting IQ test data met inclusion for this review, with 17 different IQ tests used. Twelve of these IQ tests were used in only one study while five were used in two different studies. Eleven studies reporting AB test data met inclusion for this review, with seven different AB tests used. The only AB scales to be used by more than one study were the Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scale (VABS; used by three studies) and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale 2nd Edition (VABS-II; used by two studies). A variety of additional factors were identified which make comparison of test scores between studies problematic, including different score types provided between studies (e.g. raw scores compared to age-equivalent scores) and different participant inclusion criteria (e.g. whether individuals with cognitive decline were excluded). Floor effects were common for IQ tests (particularly for standardised test scores). Data exists to suggest that floor effects may be minimised by the use of raw test scores rather than standardised test scores. Raw scores may, therefore, be particularly useful in longitudinal studies to track change in cognitive ability over time.

CONCLUSIONS: Studies assessing general ability in adults with DS are likely to benefit from the use of both IQ and AB scales. The DS research community may benefit from the development of reporting standards for IQ and AB data, and from the sharing of raw study data enabling further in-depth investigation of issues highlighted by this review.

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Published in Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, v. 11, issue 1, article no. 20.

© The Author(s). 2019

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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This work was funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award (grant 098330/Z/12/Z) conferred upon The London Down Syndrome (LonDownS) Consortium (Chief Investigator, Andre Strydom), and an MRC project grant, (Chief Investigator, Andre Strydom) for LonDownsPREVENT (MR/S011277/1).