Title: What makes counting count? Verbal and visuo-spatial contributions to typical and atypical number development

Author(s): Daniel Ansari; Chris Donlan; Michael S. C. Thomas, Sandra A. Ewing; Tiffany Peen; Annette Karmiloff-Smith

Source: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology

Volume: 85 Page: 50 62

DOI: 10.1016/S0022-0965(03)00026-2

Publisher: Academic Press

Abstract: Williams Syndrome (WS) is marked by a relative strength in verbal cognition coupled with a serious impairment in non-verbal cognition. A strong deficit in numerical cognition has been anecdotally reported in this disorder; however, its nature has not been systematically investigated. Here, we tested 14 children with WS (mean age = 7 years 2 months), 14 typically developing controls individually matched on visuo-spatial ability (mean age = 3 years 5 months) as well as a larger group of typically developing controls (mean age = 3 years 4 months) on two tasks to assess their understanding that counting determines the exact quantity of sets (cardinality principle). The understanding of the cardinality principle in children with WS is extremely delayed and only at the level predicted by their visuo-spatial MA. In this clincial group, only language accounted for a significant amount of the variance in cardinality understanding, whereas in the normal comparison group only visuo-spatial competence predicted the variance. The present findings suggest that visuo-spatial ability plays a greater role than language ability in the actual development of cardinality understanding in typically developing children, whereas the opposite obtains for the clinical group.