Gestural abilities of children with specific language impairment

Wray, Charlotte and Norbury, Courtenay and Alcock, Katie (2016) Gestural abilities of children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 51 (2). pp. 174-182. ISSN 1368-2822

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BackgroundSpecific language impairment (SLI) is diagnosed when language is significantly below chronological age expectations in the absence of other developmental disorders, sensory impairments or global developmental delays. It has been suggested that gesture may enhance communication in children with SLI by providing an alternative means to convey words or extend utterances. However, gesture is a complex task that requires the integration of social, cognitive and motor skills, skills that some children with SLI may find challenging. In addition, there is reason to believe that language and gesture form an integrated system leading to the prediction that children with a SLI may also have difficulties with gestural communication. AimsTo explore the link between language and gesture in children with poor language skills. Methods & ProcedureFifteen children with SLI and 14 age-matched typically developing children (TD) participated in this study. The children completed measures of expressive and receptive vocabulary, non-verbal cognition, motor control, gesture comprehension and gesture production. Outcomes & ResultsTD children achieved significantly higher scores on measures of gesture production and gesture comprehension relative to children with SLI. Significant correlations between both measures of vocabulary and both measures of gesture suggest a tight link between language and gesture. Conclusions & ImplicationsThe findings support the idea that gesture and language form one integrated communication system, rather than two separate communication modalities. This implies that children with SLI may have underlying deficits that impact not only on language but also on gesture production and comprehension.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Wray, C., Norbury, C. F. and Alcock, K. (2016), Gestural abilities of children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12196 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving. Accepted June 2016
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28 Sep 2015 11:04
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 01:51