Article

Conversational gestures in autism spectrum disorders: asynchrony but not decreased frequency.

Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Connecticut 06269, USA.
Autism Research (Impact Factor: 4.53). 12/2010; 3(6):311-22. DOI: 10.1002/aur.159
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Conversational or "co-speech" gestures play an important role in communication, facilitating turntaking, providing visuospatial information, clarifying subtleties of emphasis, and other pragmatic cues. Consistent with other pragmatic language deficits, individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are said to produce fewer conversational gestures, as specified in many diagnostic measures. Surprisingly, while research shows fewer deictic gestures in young children with ASD, there is a little empirical evidence addressing other forms of gesture. The discrepancy between clinical and empirical observations may reflect impairments unrelated to frequency, such as gesture quality or integration with speech. Adolescents with high-functioning ASD (n = 15), matched on age, gender, and IQ to 15 typically developing (TD) adolescents, completed a narrative task to assess the spontaneous production of speech and gesture. Naïve observers rated the stories for communicative quality. Overall, the ASD group's stories were rated as less clear and engaging. Although utterance and gesture rates were comparable, the ASD group's gestures were less closely synchronized with the co-occurring speech, relative to control participants. This gesture-speech synchrony specifically impacted communicative quality across participants. Furthermore, while story ratings were associated with gesture count in TD adolescents, no such relationship was observed in adolescents with ASD, suggesting that gestures do not amplify communication in this population. Quality ratings were, however, correlated with ASD symptom severity scores, such that participants with fewer ASD symptoms were rated as telling higher quality stories. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of communication and neuropsychological functioning in ASD.

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Available from: A. Brooke de Marchena, Dec 29, 2014
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    • "Psychological work has established links between children with ASD and atypicality in their facial gestures, prosody, and body gestures [4] [5] [6] [7]. On the computational front, effort has been made to analyze atypicality in prosody [8] [9] and asynchronization of speech and body gestures of children with ASD [5] [10]. Computational work to analyze and quantify subtle differences in facial expressions that are otherwise difficult to understand by mere visual inspection is scarce, but nevertheless of great importance. "
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    IEEE International Conference on Audio, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP), Brisbane Australia; 04/2015
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    • "Some research has looked at particular types of gesture use and found that adolescents with ASD show deficits in recognizing and imitating transitive, intransitive, and pantomime gestures compared to typically developing adolescents (Ham et al. 2011). Research on the personal use of gesture while narrating a story found that the gestures of adolescents with ASD tended to be less synchronized with their speech and less helpful in engaging listeners and improving the quality of their stories (de Marchena and Eigsti 2010). In typically developing children, gesture use has been shown to improve language and memory aspects of narration (Demir et al. 2013). "
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