Gesture and Motor Skill in Relation to Language in Children With Language Impairment

Iverson, Jana M.; Braddock, Barbara A.
February 2011
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Feb2011, Vol. 54 Issue 1, p72
Academic Journal
Purpose: To examine gesture and motor abilities in relation to language in children with language impairment ( LI). Method: Eleven children with LI (aged 2;7 to 6;1 [years;months]) and 16 typically developing (TD) children of similar chronological ages completed 2 picture narration tasks, and their language (rate of verbal utterances, mean length of utterance, and number of different words) and gestures (coded for type, co-occurrence with language, and informational relationship to language) were examined. Fine and gross motor items from the Battelle Developmental Screening Inventory (J. Newborg, J. R. Stock, L. Wneck, J. Guidubaldi, & J. Suinick, 1994) and the Child Development Inventory (H. R. Ireton, 1992) were administered. Results: Relative to TD peers, children with LI used gestures at a higher rate and produced greater proportions of gesture-only communications, conventional gestures, and gestures that added unique information to co-occurring language. However, they performed more poorly on measures of fine and gross motor abilities. Regression analyses indicated that within the LI but not the TD group, poorer expressive language was related to more frequent gesture production. Conclusions: When language is impaired, difficulties are also apparent in motor abilities, but gesture assumes a compensatory role. These findings underscore the utility of including spontaneous gesture and motor abilities in clinical assessment of and intervention for preschool children with language concerns.


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