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: 4.33). 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.

3 Followers
 · 
93 Reads
    • "narratives ; Capps et al., 1998). Moreover, there is some evidence that group differences between children with and without ASD in gesture frequency during social interactions dissipate after controlling for amount of speech (Attwood et al., 1988; Capps et al., 1998; DeMarchena and Eigsti, 2010)— an important factor rarely accounted for in previous work. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Research with typically developing children suggests a strong positive relation between early gesture use and subsequent vocabulary development. In this study, we ask whether gesture production plays a similar role for children with autism spectrum disorder. We observed 23 18-month-old typically developing children and 23 30-month-old children with autism spectrum disorder interact with their caregivers (Communication Play Protocol) and coded types of gestures children produced (deictic, give, conventional, and iconic) in two communicative contexts (commenting and requesting). One year later, we assessed children’s expressive vocabulary, using Expressive Vocabulary Test. Children with autism spectrum disorder showed significant deficits in gesture production, particularly in deictic gestures (i.e. gestures that indicate objects by pointing at them or by holding them up). Importantly, deictic gestures—but not other gestures—predicted children’s vocabulary 1 year later regardless of communicative context, a pattern also found in typical development. We conclude that the production of deictic gestures serves as a stepping-stone for vocabulary development.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Autism
  • Source
    • "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. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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.
    Full-text · Conference Paper · Apr 2015
    • "narratives ; Capps et al., 1998). Moreover, there is some evidence that group differences between children with and without ASD in gesture frequency during social interactions dissipate after controlling for amount of speech (Attwood et al., 1988; Capps et al., 1998; DeMarchena and Eigsti, 2010)— an important factor rarely accounted for in previous work. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background: Children refer to objects with their hands (e.g., point at cat) before they can produce verbal labels for these objects (“cat”; Bates et al., 1979). Importantly, the onset of such deictic gestures predicts the onset of similar spoken words in typically developing (TD) children, showing a strong positive relation between early deictic gestures and early words (Iverson & Goldin‐Meadow, 2005). Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show difficulties in early gesture use, particularly in pointing (Mundy et al., 1986); they also often show prolonged delays in producing words and use fewer words compared to TD children. Objectives: In this study, we ask how the delays and difficulties that we observe in the vocabulary development of children with ASD are related to gesture production. We hypothesized that early production of deictic gestures would be more affected than the production of other gesture types (e.g., conventional, iconic) and that variations in deictic gesture production but not other gesture types would be related to later language. Methods: We tested this question by observing 23 18-month-old TD children and 23 30-month-old children with ASD—comparable to TD children in productive vocabulary, as they interacted for 20 minutes with their mothers in a semi-naturalistic observational protocol (Communication Play Protocol, CPP). We coded the types of gestures children produced; these included deictic gestures (e.g., pointing at an object to indicate an object), conventional gestures (e.g., nodding the head to mean ‘yes’, extending an open palm next to an object to indicate ‘give object’) and iconic gestures(e.g., moving hand forcefully to indicate ‘throwing’). Iconic gestures were extremely rare in our data; therefore we only focused on deictic and conventional gestures in our analysis. In addition, we assessed children’s spoken vocabulary—both tokens and types of words produced, during a second CPP performed one year later. Results: We found that children with ASD showed significant deficits in their production of deictic, but not conventional gestures: compared to TD children, fewer children with ASD produced deictic gestures (56% vs. 100%, X2(1) = 12.78, p<.001), also producing them at significantly lower rates (Kruskall–Wallis, H(1)=12.49, p<.001). Importantly, the production of deictic gestures predicted the size of children’s vocabulary both for word tokens (r =.69, p<.01) and word types (r=.68, p<.01) one year later; but no such predictive association was found for conventional gestures and vocabulary size. Conclusions: These results show that deictic gesture is a fundamental aspect of the language learning process in children with ASD—as it is in TD children, predicting children’s spoken language development. Our results further suggest that it is not gesturing per se, but the production of a particular gesture type, namely deictic gesture, that serves as a stepping-stone for subsequent vocabulary development. Children’s deictic gestures may play this important role by helping children establish a joint focus that the caregiver can then elaborate with language.
    No preview · Conference Paper · May 2014
Show more