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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    ABSTRACT: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are known to have difficulty in producing and perceiving emotional facial expressions. Their expressions are often perceived as atypical by adult observers. This paper focuses on data driven ways to analyze and quantify atypicality in facial expressions of children with ASD. Our objective is to uncover those characteristics of facial gestures that induce the sense of perceived atypicality in observers. Using a carefully collected motion capture database, facial expressions of children with and without ASD are compared within six basic emotion categories employing methods from information theory, time-series modeling and statistical analysis. Our experiments show that children with ASD exhibit lower complexity in facial dynamics, with the eye regions contributing more than other facial regions towards the differences between children with and without ASD. Our study also notes that children with ASD exhibit lower left-right facial symmetry, and more uniform motion intensity across facial regions.
    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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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the relationship between child language skills and parent and child gestures of 58 youths with and without an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Frequencies and rates of total gesture use as well as five categories of gestures (deictic, conventional, beat, iconic, and metaphoric) were reliably coded during the collaborative Tower of Hanoi task. Children with ASD had lower Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test scores and gestured less and at lower rates compared to typically developing children. Gesture use was unrelated to vocabulary for typically developing children, but positively associated with vocabulary for those with ASD. Demographic correlates of gesturing differed by group. Gesture may be a point of communication intervention for families with children with ASD.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 02/2014; 44(8). DOI:10.1007/s10803-014-2069-y · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: The ability to coordinate communicative expressions from different behavioral modalities (e.g., vocal, gestural) is a crucial component of communication (e.g., Crais et al., 2009). In addition to impairments in gesture, pre-verbal speech sounds, and expressive language, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty producing these behaviors in coordination (e.g, Stone et al., 1997). This study compared the development of multimodal communication in infants at heightened ASD risk (later-born siblings of children with autism; HR) to that of infants with low ASD risk (infants with a negative family history of ASD; LR) to determine whether HR infants demonstrate communicative coordination delays and whether such impairments are related to a later ASD diagnosis. Objectives: To investigate developmental trajectories in the production and temporal coordination of communicative behaviors from 8 to 18 months in HR and LR infants. Methods: Forty-seven HR infants (43% male) and 29 LR infants (45% male) were observed at home for 30 minutes during everyday household activities and play with a primary caregiver. The 8, 10, 12, 14, and 18 month observations were coded for communicative gestures, words, and non-word vocalizations produced by the infant. Coordinated bouts of communicative behaviors (i.e., instances in which gestures overlapped in time with non-word vocalizations or words) were identified. At 36 months, HR infants were administered the ADOS-G (Lord et al., 2000); to date, six infants have received an ASD diagnosis (HR-ASD). The remaining HR and LR infants did not meet ASD criteria (No Diagnosis; HR-ND, LR-ND). Results: Preliminary analyses were conducted using Hierarchical Linear Models (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992). Unconditional and conditional growth models were estimated separately for Overall Communicativeness (the total number of all gestures and vocalizations produced in a given session) and Coordinated Bouts (the total number of all gesture-vocalization coordinations). A one parameter (slope only) linear model adequately represented the individual growth data collected in this study. After controlling for gender, Overall Communicativeness growth trajectories for the LR-ND, HR-ND, and HR-ASD groups were positive (increasing) but not significantly different from one another. However, relative to the LR-ND group, Coordinated Bouts grew at a slower rate (i.e., .79 bouts slower per month) in the HR-ND group (p = .028). This pattern was more pronounced for the HR-ASD infants, who, on average, gained 1.60 bouts fewer per month than LR-ND infants (p = .000). Over time, this slower growth rate translated into progressively larger standard deviation differences between the LR-ND and HR-ASD groups. At 12 months, scores for the HR-ASD infants fell on average 10.53 SD below those for LR-ND infants, but by 18 months the difference had more than doubled, with HR-ASD infants scoring 26.32 SD below LR-ND infants. Conclusions: There is a broad pattern of delay in the production of temporally coordinated communicative behaviors among HR infants that cannot be simply attributed to a delay in the overall production of communicative acts. This delay appears to be more pronounced in HR infants who eventually received an ASD diagnosis, suggesting that multimodal communication may be an early behavioral marker of ASD.
    International Meeting for Autism Research, San Diego, CA; 05/2011
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