Nonverbal Communication and Early Language Acquisition in Children With Down Syndrome and in Normally Developing Children Many children with Down syndrome display asynchrony in development with the acquisition of language preceding at a slower pace than the acquisition of other cognitive skills. Recent research suggests that the expressive language delays that are displayed by these children may be associated with an earlier disturbance in the development ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 1995
Nonverbal Communication and Early Language Acquisition in Children With Down Syndrome and in Normally Developing Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Peter Mundy
    University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
  • Connie Kasari
    University of California at Los Angeles
  • Marian Sigman
    University of California at Los Angeles
  • Ellen Ruskin
    University of California at Los Angeles
  • Contact author: Peter Mundy, Psychological Services Center, Department of Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL.
    Contact author: Peter Mundy, Psychological Services Center, Department of Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL.×
Article Information
Development / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 1995
Nonverbal Communication and Early Language Acquisition in Children With Down Syndrome and in Normally Developing Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 1995, Vol. 38, 157-167. doi:10.1044/jshr.3801.157
History: Revised September 30, 1993 , Accepted July 14, 1994
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 1995, Vol. 38, 157-167. doi:10.1044/jshr.3801.157
History: Revised September 30, 1993; Accepted July 14, 1994

Many children with Down syndrome display asynchrony in development with the acquisition of language preceding at a slower pace than the acquisition of other cognitive skills. Recent research suggests that the expressive language delays that are displayed by these children may be associated with an earlier disturbance in the development of nonverbal requesting skills (Mundy, Sigman, Kasari, & Yirmiya, 1988; Smith & von Tetzchner, 1986). To test this hypothesis, a longitudinal study of 37 children with Down syndrome and 25 children with normal development was conducted. The results of the study indicated that this sample of children with Down syndrome exhibited a disturbance in nonverbal requesting. Furthermore, individual differences in nonverbal requesting were associated with the subsequent development of expressive language in these children. This association was observed even after taking into account initial variance in developmental level and language status. These data suggested that some of the processes involved in the expressive language delay of children with Down syndrome were not unique to linguistic development. Instead, some aspects of this delay appeared to be associated with problems in an earlier nonverbal phase of communication development. Additionally, the results suggested that measures of nonverbal communication skills also made a unique contribution to the prediction of language development among children with normal development. These data supported the hypothesis that the acquisition of nonverbal communication skills provides an important foundation for the emergence of language in atypical as well as typical development.

Acknowledgments
This research was conducted at UCLA and supported by grants HD17662 from NICHD to Peter Mundy and Marian Sigman, and NS25243 from NINCDS to Marian Sigman. Preparation of the manuscript was supported by a James W. McLamore award through the University of Miami. We would like to acknowledge the indispensable assistance of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Parents of Children with Down Syndrome, as well as Alison Anson, Mike Espinosa, Stephanie Freeman, Margie Greenwald, Alisa Hoffman, Nicholas Lofthous, Alma Lopez, and Susan Toth in the execution of this study.
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