Comprehension of the Communicative Intent Behind Pointing and Gazing Gestures by Young Children with Williams Syndrome or Down Syndrome PurposeIn this study, the authors examined the ability of preschoolers with Williams syndrome (WS) or Down syndrome (DS) to infer communicative intent as expressed through gestures (pointing and eye-gaze shift).MethodParticipants were given a communicative or noncommunicative cue involving pointing or gaze shifting in the context of a hiding game. Each ... Article
Article  |   August 01, 2010
Comprehension of the Communicative Intent Behind Pointing and Gazing Gestures by Young Children with Williams Syndrome or Down Syndrome
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Angela E. John
    University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
  • Carolyn B. Mervis
    University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
  • Contact author: Angela E. John, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292. E-mail: aejohn11@gwise.louisville.edu.
Article Information
Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Language
Article   |   August 01, 2010
Comprehension of the Communicative Intent Behind Pointing and Gazing Gestures by Young Children with Williams Syndrome or Down Syndrome
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2010, Vol. 53, 950-960. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0234)
History: Received November 12, 2008 , Revised March 25, 2009 , Accepted October 12, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2010, Vol. 53, 950-960. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0234)
History: Received November 12, 2008; Revised March 25, 2009; Accepted October 12, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 15

PurposeIn this study, the authors examined the ability of preschoolers with Williams syndrome (WS) or Down syndrome (DS) to infer communicative intent as expressed through gestures (pointing and eye-gaze shift).

MethodParticipants were given a communicative or noncommunicative cue involving pointing or gaze shifting in the context of a hiding game. Each child completed 4 conditions formed by crossing Communicative Style (communicative vs. noncommunicative) and Gesture (point vs. gaze shift).

ResultsAt the group level, children in both groups located the toy significantly more often than expected by chance in the communicative condition but performed at chance in the noncommunicative condition. Children in both groups were more likely to infer communicative intent when pointing rather than gaze shifting was used. Individually, despite significantly lower developmental quotient and language standard scores, significantly more children with DS than with WS successfully used the experimenter’s communicative gestures.

ConclusionsAt the group level, preschoolers with WS or DS were able to comprehend the communicative intent expressed by pointing and gazing gestures in a tabletop task. Children with DS evidenced significantly stronger pragmatic skills than did children with WS, providing further evidence that children with WS have more difficulty with sociocommunication than expected for chronological age or cognitive/language ability.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant R37 HD29957 and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Grant R01 NS35102. We thank the children and their parents for their enthusiastic participation in our research. Melissa Rowe and Alicia Barber assisted with data collection.
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