Manual Signing in Adults With Intellectual Disability: Influence of Sign Characteristics on Functional Sign Vocabulary Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of sign characteristics in a key word signing (KWS) system on the functional use of those signs by adults with intellectual disability (ID). Method All 507 signs from a Flemish KWS system were characterized in terms of phonological, ... Research Article
Research Article  |   June 2014
Manual Signing in Adults With Intellectual Disability: Influence of Sign Characteristics on Functional Sign Vocabulary
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Kristien Meuris
    Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
  • Bea Maes
    Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
  • Anne-Marie De Meyer
    Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
  • Inge Zink
    Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
    University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Kristien Meuris: stien.meuris@med.kuleuven.be
  • Editor: Rhea Paul
    Editor: Rhea Paul×
  • Associate Editor: Carolyn Mervis
    Associate Editor: Carolyn Mervis×
  • © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Article Information
Development / Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   June 2014
Manual Signing in Adults With Intellectual Disability: Influence of Sign Characteristics on Functional Sign Vocabulary
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2014, Vol. 57, 990-1010. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-12-0402
History: Received December 17, 2012 , Revised June 2, 2013 , Accepted October 18, 2013
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2014, Vol. 57, 990-1010. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-12-0402
History: Received December 17, 2012; Revised June 2, 2013; Accepted October 18, 2013
Web of Science® Times Cited: 3

Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of sign characteristics in a key word signing (KWS) system on the functional use of those signs by adults with intellectual disability (ID).

Method All 507 signs from a Flemish KWS system were characterized in terms of phonological, iconic, and referential characteristics. Phonological and referential characteristics were assigned to the signs by speech-language pathologists. The iconicity (i.e., transparency, guessing the meaning of the sign; and translucency, rating on a 6-point scale) of the signs were tested in 467 students. Sign functionality was studied in 119 adults with ID (mean mental age of 50.54 months) by means of a questionnaire, filled out by a support worker.

Results A generalized linear model with a negative binomial distribution (with log-link) showed that semantic category was the factor with the strongest influence on sign functionality, with grammatical class, referential concreteness, and translucency also playing a part. No sign phonological characteristics were found to be of significant influence on sign use.

Conclusion The meaning of a sign is the most important factor regarding its functionality (i.e., whether a sign is used in everyday communication). Phonological characteristics seem only of minor importance.

Acknowledgments
We are grateful to the M. M. Delacroix-Foundation for its financial support for this research project. We would like to thank all students, support workers, and adults with intellectual disability (ID) who participated in this study. A special word of gratitude is expressed toward the master's-level students in speech and language pathology who assisted in data gathering. This study is part of a larger research project focusing on key word signing in adults with ID and leading to a PhD.
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