Informations and abstract
Many researches have emphasized the importance of gestures in the early stages of communicative development in normal children. These studies have reported that gestures play a transitional role in the language acquisition process and they are a frequent communicative form, along with words, during the first two years of life. The present study aims to investigate the use of several types of communicative gestures and words (deictic, representational, enphatic) in the early stage of communicative and linguistic development of Down Syndrome children. Three DS children (two males and one female) aged between 37 and 56 months were examined. Cognitive test indicated a developmental age between 18 and 27 months; the children's language age-assessed through a questionnaire administered to parents - was estimated between 16 and 21 months. Each child was videotaped individually during a 30 minutes play session with his/her mother. Different gestures and words produced by the children were analyzed and a profile of each child's verbal and gestural repertoire was reported. Results showed that gestures were a prevalent communicative modality in the children we examined, while they were specifically impaired in speech development. The possible implications for rehabilitation therapies using gestures to improve the communicative ability of DS subjects are discussed.