Audra Sterling, PhD – Slide of the Week

Audra Sterling, PhD, Slide of the Week

Title: Maternal Responsiveness to Gestures in Children with Down Syndrome

Legend: This study investigated differences in maternal responsiveness to child gestures during naturalistic parent-child interactions. Gesture use predicts later language skills and is an important communication modality for young children with Down syndrome (DS) given their significant language delays. There was a different relationship between maternal gesture recodes (i.e., verbal translations of child gestures) and child age for the children with Down syndrome compared to children with typical development (TD). There was a significant negative relationship between child age and the percentage of maternal gesture recodes in the mother-child dyads with typical development, yet this same relationship was not found for the mother-child dyads with Down syndrome.

Citation: Lorang, E., Sterling, A., & Schroeder, B. (in press). Maternal responsiveness to gestures in children with Down syndrome. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Abstract: Purpose: This study compared gesture use in young children with DS and TD as well as how mothers respond to child gestures based on child age and diagnosis.
 Method: Twenty-two mother-child dyads with DS and 22 mother-child dyads with TD participated. The child participants were between 22 and 63 months and were matched on chronological age. We coded child gesture use and whether mothers recoded child gestures (i.e., provided a verbal translation) during naturalistic interactions. Results: The children with DS used more gestures than peers with TD. After controlling for expressive language ability, the two groups were not significantly different on child gesture use. Regardless of child diagnosis, mothers recoded approximately the same percentage of child gestures. There was a significant interaction between child diagnosis and child age when predicting the percentage of maternal gesture recodes; mothers of children with DS did not demonstrate differences in the percentage of maternal gesture recodes based on child age but there was a negative relationship between the percentage of maternal gesture recodes and child age for the children with TD. Conclusions: Young children with DS gesture more than chronological age-matched children with TD, therefore providing numerous opportunities for caregivers to recode child gestures and support language development. Early intervention should focus on increasing parent responsiveness to child gestures earlier in life in order to provide additional word-learning opportunities for children with DS.

About the Lab: The Research in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab (RIDDL) is interested in the development of language and cognitive skills in children and adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Through our work we hope to inform both clinical work and theory on issues surrounding assessment and treatment of language, the impact of additional diagnoses on language and behavior, and overlap between syndromes. We work with families who have children with fragile X syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and Down syndrome.

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