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What Our Hands Say: Exploring Gesture Use in Subgroups of Children With Language Delay

O'Neill, H. & Chiat, S. (2015). What Our Hands Say: Exploring Gesture Use in Subgroups of Children With Language Delay. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 58(4), pp. 1319-1325. doi: 10.1044/2015_jslhr-l-14-0187


The aim of this study was to investigate whether children with receptive-expressive language delay (R/ELD) and expressive-only language delay (ELD) differ in their use of gesture; to examine relationships between their use of gesture, symbolic comprehension, and language; to consider implications for assessment and for the nature of problems underlying different profiles of early language delay.

Twelve children with ELD (8 boys, 4 girls) and 10 children with R/ELD (8 boys, 2 girls), aged 2–3 years, were assessed on measures of gesture use and symbolic comprehension.

Performance of the R/ELD group was significantly poorer than performance of the ELD group on measures of gesture and symbolic comprehension. Gesture use and symbolic comprehension were significantly associated with receptive language, but associations with expressive language were not significant.

Findings of this study support previous research pointing to links between gesture and language development, and more specifically, between delays in gesture, symbolic understanding, and receptive rather than expressive language. Given potentially important implications for the nature of problems underlying ELD and R/ELD, and for assessment of children with language delay, this preliminary study invites further investigation comparing the use of different gesture types in samples of children matched on age and nonverbal IQ.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Hilary O%27Neill revised submission 9th May 2015.pdf]
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