An Observational Study on Problem-Solving Strategies in Individuals with Down Syndrome

  • Elisabetta Sagone
  • Maria Elvira De Caroli
  • Maria Luisa Indiana
  • Rossella Falanga
  • Erica Napoli


This paper is focused on the analysis of problem-solving strategies in a small group of individuals with Down syndrome aged from 13 to 22 years using the observational method. Three tasks are used to investigate one of the main components of executive functions (e.g. strategies of problem-solving): the Tower of Hanoi (structured task), Tetris Game (semi-structured task), and a set of Building Blocks (unstructured task). Together with these tasks a check-list is applied to codify the video-taped behaviours connected to the solution strategies of the provided tasks. Two independent judges reached a substantial inter-observer agreement in the coding of behavioural patterns expressed by participants. Results display that individuals with Down syndrome have difficulties to adopt flexible strategies and to be autonomous in the execution of tasks. Future research could study in deep the educational implications in school-context by means of specific trainings about the overcoming of ideational rigidity in problem-solving, specifically in unstructured wide-ranging situations, and put emphasis on the early emergence of planning skills and problem-solving for developmental interventions.Keywords: observation, problem-solving, Down syndrome, Tower of Hanoi, Tetris