Total Communication & Down Syndrome Abstracts

International Congress for the Study of Child Language, Berlin (2005 Jul 26)

Early grammatical development of a boy with Down syndrome using manual signs and spoken Finnish

Launonen, Kaisa
Department of Speech Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland

Research in many countries and different languages has indicated that most people with Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) have distinctive problems in their language development and use, and particularly in speech. These characteristic features cannot be explained by the intellectual impairment alone. Efforts in many countries have also shown that early intervention, using manual signs as an augmentative, pre-speech language form, may enhance the communication and language development of children with Down syndrome. The beneficial effects, which seem to reach also to speech development, at least in some cases, can still be seen at school age, in the language and social skills of the children whose families have taken part in these early intervention programmes.
The reason for the difficulties in the communication, language and speech skills of the people with Down syndrome is not yet properly known. In addition, considerable individual variation is evident in the development of these children. Descriptions of exceptional individual cases may help researchers and clinicians better to understand the nature of communication and language problems and the role of early augmentative communication in the development of these people. Detailed descriptions of exceptional paths to spoken language may also enhance understanding variation in children who are developing normally. As the majority of research in this field is based on children who develop in English speaking communities, studies made within other languages is also important to explain language and communication development of children who are following atypical developmental paths.
This presentation will follow the emergence of grammar in the expressions of a boy with Down syndrome who was learning manual signs and spoken Finnish as his first expressive language forms. The follow-up data, collected from 2;6 to 7 years of age, is based on videotapes and notes written by the mother and the speech therapist (the researcher) of the boy. The development of language and other cognitive skills, as well as interaction, were exceptionally slow for him, even considering his syndrome. He started to use manual signs at the age of three, as part of shared signing songs and contact games, led by an adult. In these routine contexts, he started to combine signs even before he started to use single signs spontaneously. The spontaneous sign use started to increase at the age of four, and the word attempts at the age of five. His words were, for a long time, mainly formed of the end-parts (last syllable) of the words. This made them highly incomprehensible, particularly because Finnish language has long words and is rich in morphology; suffixes are added in the end of the word. The data interestingly shows how the boy started to combine manual signs and spoken words, first to make his spoken attempts more comprehensible and later also to build sentences. He was also able to add missing morphological information, particularly that of spatial relations, with the help of manual signs. The role of shared routines, including plenty of repetition, both in sign and in speech, will also be discussed.
Int J Lang Commun Disord 38 (2): 179-97 (2003 Apr-Jun)

Relationship between gestures and words in children with Down's syndrome and typically developing children in the early stages of communicative development

Iverson JM, Longobardi E, Caselli MC
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, USA

BACKGROUND: Previous research has emphasized the importance of gesture in early communicative development. These studies have reported that gestures are used frequently during the first two years of life and may play a transitional role in the language acquisition process. Although there are now numerous descriptions of the relationship between gesture and the developing language system in typically-developing (TD) children, relatively little is known about the nature and early development of the gesture-language system in children with developmental disorders involving specific profiles of language delay and/or impairment. PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to compare early word and gesture use in children with DS and in typically-developing children to investigate potential differences in the relationship between gestural and verbal communication in early language development. METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Ten children from upper-middle class families participated in the study. The five children with DS (3 boys and 2 girls) had an average chronological age of 47.6 months, an average mental age of 22.4 months, and an average language age of 18 months. Each child with DS was matched to a typically developing child on the basis of gender, language age, and observed expressive vocabulary size. Children were videotaped for 30 minutes as they interacted spontaneously with their mothers. All communicative and intelligible gestures and words produced by the children were transcribed from the videotapes. Data analyses focused on: a) overall production of gestures and words (i.e., gesture and word tokens); b) the size of children's gestural and verbal repertoires (i.e., gesture and word types); and c) production and informational content of gesture-word combinations. MAIN OUTCOMES AND RESULTS: Although children with DS had significantly smaller gestural repertoires than their language age-matched peers, there was no reliable difference between the two groups in the overall use of gesture. In addition, with DS produced two-element combinations (primarily gesture-word combinations) and did so at a rate comparable to that observed among their TD counterparts. However, no two-word combinations were observed among children with DS, and there were also group differences in the information contained in children's gesture-word combinations. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, these findings suggest that in addition to the well-documented global delays in early communicative development, children with DS may exhibit additional pockets of delay, specifically in making the transition from one- to two-word speech. Results are further discussed in terms of their implications for understanding the organization of the developing gesture-language system and for the assessment of gesture in young children with communicative delays and disorders.
International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 37 (3): 309-324 (2002)

Strategies for achieving joint attention when signing to children with Down's syndrome

Clibbens, John; Powell, G. G.; Atkinson, E.

Research indicates that joint attention is an important factor in determining the rate and nature of early vocabulary development in typically developing children. Studies conducted with deaf children acquiring sign language indicate that caregivers adopt special strategies for achieving joint attention with this group: these strategies make allowance for the visual medium in which the language is transmitted. Joint attention is also important for the development of communication in children with Down's syndrome, who also often have restricted attentional capacity. Moreover, there is good evidence that the use of signed input in addition to speech can have significant benefits for these children. This paper reports on a study designed to explore the utility of strategies observed in deaf parents for the achievement of joint attention when signing with children with Down's syndrome. Data are presented from recordings of four children with Down's syndrome and their mothers. The results showed that the mothers were successful in enabling the child to perceive both signed input and contextual referents much of the time, but that the range of strategies used was very limited compared to deaf parents of deaf children. Adopting a wider range of strategies would allow a considerable increase in signed input. Implications for intervention programmes are discussed.
Down Syndrome Research and Practice 7 (3): 101-105 (2001)

Signing and Lexical Development in Children with Down Syndrome

Clibbens, John

Language development in children with Down syndrome is delayed, on average, relative to general cognitive, motor and social development, and there is also evidence for specific delays in morphology and syntax, with many adults showing persistent problems in these areas. It appears that the combined use of signed and spoken input can boost early language development significantly, this evidence coming initially from single case-studies, and more recently from larger scale controlled studies. Research with typically developing hearing and deaf children, as well as children with Down syndrome, has demonstrated the importance of establishing joint attention for vocabulary development. Furthermore, studies carried out with children with Down syndrome indicate that reducing attentional demands may be especially important in scaffolding language development in this group. The use of signing strategies which have been found to facilitate language development in deaf children when signing to children with Down syndrome is discussed, as is the need for further research on this topic and on the importance of joint attention for the use of other augmentative and alternative communication systems, such as graphic symbol and picture systems.
Journal of Communication Disorders 33 (3): 241-266 (2000 May-June)

Novel word acquisition in children with Down syndrome: Does modality make a difference?

Kay-Raining Bird, Elizabeth; Gaskell, Annette; Babineau, Michelle Dallaire; MacDonald, Susan
Dalhousie University, School of Human Communication Disorders, Halifax, NS, Canada

Signing is a commonly used intervention for children with cognitive impairments who have expressive language delays. Novel word learning in 3 conditions (signed only, spoken only, signed and spoken combined) was compared for children with Down syndrome (2;1 to 5;2) and mental-age matched control children (1;4 to 2;6). Spontaneous imitations and responses to production and comprehension probes were examined after 5, 10, and 15 word exposures. No group differences in frequency of imitations or productions were obtained. The frequency of imitations was highest in the combined condition. Probed productions were infrequent, although novel words were produced most often in spoken and combined conditions. For both imitated and probed productions in the combined condition, the spoken portion was almost exclusively produced. Across conditions, children with Down syndrome comprehended fewer words than did control children. The evidence for and explanations of the facilitative effect of signs and the advantage of dual-method presentation are discussed.
Journal of Developmental & Physical Disabilities 11 (3): 221-236 (1999 Sep)

Gestural communication learning in mentally retarded adults with Down's syndrome

Marquardt, Thomas P.; Sanchez, Sylvia; Munoz, Maria L.
University of Texas, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, Austin, TX, USA

10 mentally retarded male adults (aged 30-57 yrs) with Down's Syndrome were assigned to American Indian Gestural Code and ASL teaching groups to compare sign comprehension, imitation, and retrieval learning in relation to system characteristics (iconicity, motoric complexity of signs) and subject-specific factors (language and motoric ability). 20 lexical items, significantly different in iconicity and motor difficulty for the 2 gestural systems, were taught to the Ss during 20 30-min sessions. Statistical analyses reveal significant differences in individual performance at 5 session measurement intervals but no significant differences between the 2 groups. Subject factors, rather than differences in sign system characteristics, appeared to be the best predictors of language/gestural code learning for the mentally retarded adults.
Journal Of Speech, Language, And Hearing Research 41: 1125-1135 (1998)

Gestures And Words In Early Development Of Children With Down Syndrome

Caselli, M.C., Vicari, S., Longobardi, E., Lami, L., Pizzoli, C., Stella, G.

This study investigated the development of language and communication in children with Down syndrome (DS). More specifically, the aim was to examine the relations among verbal comprehension, verbal production, and gesture production in the very early stages of development. Forty children (age range: 10-49 months) with DS and 40 children with normal development (age range: 8-1 7 months) participated in this study. Children with DS came from two Italian health centers. The communicative and linguistic development of children with DS was measured by administering the Italian version of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory. The children with DS were severely delayed when compared with normally developing children in reaching the developmental stages. In such children a dissociation emerged between verbal comprehension and production, in favor of comprehension, whereas a synchronous development was found between vocal lexical comprehension and gestural production. The individual differences previously reported in these children are also evident in all domains examined. There were no significant differences between children with DS and typically developing controls matched far lexical comprehension on verbal production. However the two groups differed significantly in gestural development, suggesting a "gesture advantage" in children with DS compared with controls matched for word comprehension. Some possible reasons for this dissociative profile are discussed.
Lisbon CPLOL Congress (1997 May 2-4)

The Effects of Early Intervention on the Language and Communication Skills of Children with Down Syndrome

Kaisa Launonen

People who have Down syndrome have been found to display problems in language development and use, especially in speech. The reason for these difficulties is not yet properly known but in the light of current knowledge they seem to be caused by problems of early interaction and deviant auditory processing. Recent studies of the early language development have emphasised the role of pre-speech communication with the development of spoken language in both normally developing children and children with Down syndrome. The question can be raised whether it is possible to prevent or reduce predicted future problems of development if the intervention is started at this early stage of language development. the aim of The Early Signing Project, presented here, was to find out how intervention with children aged between six months to three years, based on the use of manual signing, gestural communication and action, along with speech, would affect the development of language and communication skills of children with Down syndrome. Through the project, new early communication intervention methods were also developed for general clinical use. The results show that early intervention with manual signs and special attention to the active role of the child and involvement of the family had significant immediate and long-lasting effects, not only on language and speech development but also on cognitive and social skills. These results support researchers who consider early language intervention to be necessary and important for later achievements and adjustment of children with Down syndrome. The results also challenge the scientific and clinical logopedy to broaden the focus of interest to the pre-speech stage of communication. Special attention should be paid to various at-risk populations in the field of language and communication development. Also, the traditional role of professionals is challenged in early intervention in which their part is mostly indirect and skills in working with parents and families are of primary importance.
Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 1 (4): 271-278 (1996 Fall)

On Language Deficits and Modality in Children with Down Syndrome: A Case Study of Twins Bilingual in BSL and English

Woll, Bernice; Grove, Nicola
Department of Clinical Communications Studies, City University, London EC1V OHB, England

It has been suggested that there may be an age advantage for the acquisition of sign language relative to spoken language for two reasons: (1) language in the visual-motor modality may be easier to access, recall, and produce than language in the auditory-vocal modality and (2) the continuity in form between gesture and sign language may promote the transition from prelinguistic to linguistic communication. These suggestions have provided the impetus for many language intervention programs for children with intellectual impairments. This article reports on hearing identical twins with Down syndrome who have Deaf parents. The twins are bilingual, having been exposed since infancy to both English and British Sign Language. Analyses of tests and spontaneous data reveal a high degree of fluency in gesture but impairments in both languages, suggesting that the fundamental problems of children with Down syndrome are not modality-specific and that there are discontinuities between gesture and language.
Augmentative & Alternative Communication 11 (4): 249-254 (1995 Dec)

Comparison of sign alone and in combination with an electronic communication device in early language intervention: Case study

Iacono, Teresa A.; Duncum, Joanne E.
Macquarie University, School of English, Linguistics & Media, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Compared the effectiveness of sign alone and sign in combination with an electronic device in language intervention in case of a 2.7-yr-old girl with Down syndrome. The S was exposed to language intervention involving free play with toys, and introduced to an electronic communication device with voice output. Two conditions were compared, sign and speech, and sign and electronic device and speech. Scoring was done for spontaneously produced words, limited words, modalities used for production, and their frequency. The combined use of sign and electronic device was more effective, than sign alone, in eliciting single-word, and 2- and 3-word combinations. An overall preference was evident for both spontaneous/responsive and imitated productions, supporting the use of sign and augmentative and alternative communication aid to enhance language production.
Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 38 (1): 157-67 (1995 Feb)

Nonverbal Communication and Early Language Acquisition in Children with Down Syndrome and Normally Developing Children

P. Mundy, C. Kasari, M. Sigman and E. Ruskin

This longitudinal study found that 37 preschool children with Down's syndrome, compared to children with normal development, exhibited a disturbance in nonverbal requesting, and individual differences in nonverbal requesting were associated with subsequent development of expressive language in these children. Data indicate that acquisition of nonverbal communication skills provides an important foundation for emergence of language.
Down Syndrome Research and Practice 3 (2): 127-129 (1994 Oct)

Actions Speak Louder than Words: Signing and Speech Intelligibility in Adults with Down Syndrome

Powell, Gaye; Clibbens, John
Department of Psychology, University of Plymouth, UK

Previous studies into the use of key-word signing with people with a learning disability have concentrated on its contribution to the development of speech and language. The few studies focusing on its relationship to actual speech production and intelligibility were based on taught target words or phrases. This study, which was of quasi-experimental design, looked at whether reported improvements in intelligibility were supported in spontaneous speech production. Communication samples were collected by video recording 'good' and 'poor' speakers under 'high' and 'low' signing conditions. 'Skilled' and 'naive' raters assigned intelligibility ratings under 'seen' and 'unseen' conditions. It was predicted that speech from the 'high' signing condition would be rated more highly than that from the 'low' signing condition. This was supported. The iconicity of signs was shown to have a positive effect for 'naive' raters when rating the 'poor' speakers, which may counter previous arguments that the general public would be unable to understand communication attempts by people using key-word signing.
Down Syndrome Research and Practice 3 (1): 101-106 (1993 Oct)

From Theory to Practice in Child Language Development

Clibbens, John
Department of Psychology, University of Plymouth, UK

This paper addresses current theoretical perspectives on child language development, and their implications for intervention. It is argued that language is a complex system consisting of a number of distinct, interacting, components, and that no single explanation for its development is likely to be adequate: the evidence suggests, rather, that different factors predominate in the development of different parts of the system. Some recent work with deaf children - on the development of sign phonology, and on maternal strategies for presenting signs to their children in context - is then discussed together with its implications for the use of signs with other groups, focusing particularly on the use of signed input with children with Down syndrome.
Australian Journal of Human Communication Disorders 20 (2): (1992)

Parental compliance with recommendations to utilize augmentative communication with their children with Down syndrome

Parsons, Carl L.; Wills, Jennifer

A study, via telephone interview, of whether families of children with Down syndrome (N = 23) followed recommendations to use signing to augment the development of the Ss' verbal expression. Families were sent written reports of a consultative model approach recommending procedures that could be used at home or in school. Results indicate that 48% of families did not follow the recommendation to use signing. Parents demonstrated many issues of concern about augmentative communication: the difference between alternative and augmentative communication, awareness that signing should co-occur with speech, confusion about an individual's suitability for use of signing, and fear that the time and effort involved in learning an augmentative system may prevent the development of speech and that dependence on signing might actually retard speech development. Those parents who followed the recommendation reported that their experience with signing helped them realize the benefit of using signing, and generated a list of suggestions for speech-language pathologists on how this experience factor could be conveyed to other families when augmentative communication is being recommended. Clinical implications are discussed including the need for professionals to acknowledge that many families are not following recommendations & a need to more effectively explain the significant role the recommendations play.
Early Education and Development 2 (4): 306-20 (1991 Oct)

Using Total Communication with Young Children with Down Syndrome: A Literature Review and Case Study

Gibbs, Elizabeth D.; Carswell, Lynn E.

Total communication is the simultaneous use of speech and manual signs. This article presents a literature review regarding language disabilities of children with Down's syndrome and a case study concerning the effectiveness of the use of total communication with an infant with Down's syndrome.
Annual Conference of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 1-15 (1990 Nov 18)

Total Communication for Children with Down Syndrome? Patterns across Six Children

Gibbs, Elizabeth D, Springer AS, Cooley WC, Alosio SG.
Seattle, WA

The project evaluated the effectiveness of using Total Communication (simultaneous use of sign language and speech) with six infants with Down syndrome as a means of fostering communication while verbal skills and articulatory proficiency develop. Each child was seen within the home environment every second week through 24 months of age and once a month from 25 through 30 months of age. Parents were taught signs for common toys and objects as well as common activities. Subjects were frequently evaluated for comprehension (17 to 24 months of age) and expressive language (through 30 months of age) and parents were asked to keep a language diary of their child's vocabulary development in both signs and words. Results were quite variable among the children, stressing the importance of individual differences. Findings suggest therapists should consider the following factors in deciding whether to use a Total Communication approach: (1) the degree to which the child is exhibiting a verbal expressive language delay relative to his/her receptive language at 12 months and 24 months; (2) the status of the child's middle ear function and hearing acuity; (3) the child's oral-motor status or extent of difficulty in the area of feeding; and (4) the parent's comfort level and ability to use Total Communication consistently. Test results for each child are presented graphically in the appendixes. Includes nine references.
Child Language Teaching and Therapy 6: 59-76 (1990)

Acquiring a communication system by sign and speech in a child with Down syndrome: A longitudinal investigation

Layton TL, Savino MA
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 20 (1): 50-62 (1989 Jan)

How Manual Sign Acquisition Relates to the Development of Spoken Language: A Case Study

Kouri, Theresa
School of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242

Existing evidence is unclear as to how manual sign acquisition relates to early development of spoken language. The relationship between signed and spoken word productions was examined in a young girl with Down Syndrome during a treatment regimen utilizing simultaneous input. All of her words were recorded over an 8-month period and classified according to the manner and modality of production (i.e., spontaneous/imitated; signed and/or spoken). Certain analyses revealed that most of the words that the subject initially signed were later spontaneously spoken and that most of her signed productions evolved into spontaneous spoken productions. Various patterns were demonstrated with respect to specific word evolutions (e.g., signed to spoken productions), and sign/spoken production tendencies during the first versus last four months of the investigation. It was concluded that use of simultaneous input supports the production of spoken language.
66th Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children 1-26 (1988, March 28-April 1)

Early Use of Total Communication with a Young Down Syndrome Child: A Procedure for Evaluating Effectiveness

Gibbs, Elizabeth D.; Carswell, Lynn E.
Washington, DC

Down Syndrome children exhibit language delays, particularly in expressive abilities, more severe than would be anticipated from their cognitive level alone. This research project sought to develop a procedure for introducing total communication into the home environment of prelinguistic Down Syndrome infants and for comparing the relative effectiveness of the oral and total communication approaches on an individual basis. A play-based language intervention was designed, using a single-subject simultaneous treatment design to evaluate a 14-month-old Down Syndrome child's progress in both speech and total communication modalities. Two equivalent 10-word sets were introduced during free play; with one set of 10 toys, manual signs augmented speech, while for the other 10 toys only speech was used. Results indicated that comprehension was not differentially affected by the type of communication approach used. However, the child was able to use manual signs expressively many months before any understandable words were used. His use of manual signs did not inhibit his use of speech.
Journal of Mental Deficiency Research 30 (4): 355-364 (1986 Dec)

The effects of two procedures on spontaneous signing with Down's syndrome children

Ducker PC, Moonen, XM
Catholic University of Nijmegen, Netherlands

Investigated 2 procedural aspects with regard to their effect on spontaneous use of manual signs with 3 Down's syndrome children (aged 10-14 yrs). Ss were administered a test of intelligence and the Vineland Social Maturity Scale. Two modes of presenting reinforcement for spontaneous sign requesting were compared, and the effect of a least-to-most prompting procedure was evaluated. Within a randomization design, a significant difference was observed between the 2 modes in favor of the one in which only a part of the sign-requested reinforcement was initially presented. Within a mixed design of reversal and multiple baseline, introduction of the least-to-most prompting procedure resulted in an increase of the spontaneous use of the target signs, while withdrawal of the procedure resulted in a decrease.
Education & Training of the Mentally Retarded 19 (3): 175-182 (1984 Oct)

An evaluation of the total communication approach for teaching language skills to developmentally delayed preschool children

Jago, Janet L.; Jago, Arthur G.; Hart, Miriam

20 Down's syndrome and 4 normal language-delayed 18-36 mo olds were administered the Receptive Expressive Emergent Language Scale (REEL), the Gessel Developmental Schedules, and an inventory of communication development before and after their participation in either a 7-mo total communication intervention or 1 of 2 other traditional infant stimulation programs to compare the effectiveness of the total communication intervention with more traditional programs. Tallies of the number of acquired words and language signs were also obtained before and after intervention. Standardized change score analyses revealed that the total communication group scored significantly higher on the REEL Expressive scale and in the number of acquired signs. Acquisition of language signs was not associated with a decline in oral communication as measured by word acquisition. It is concluded that, although the evidence favors use of total communication with preschool, language-delayed children, additional research is necessary before the technique can be recommended.
Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 49 (3): 293-302 (1984 Aug)

Effects of Speech and Speech and Sign Instruction on Oral Language Learning and Generalization of Action + Object Combinations by Down's Syndrome Children

Romski, Mary Ann; Ruder, Kenneth, F.
Georgia State University and Emory University, Atlanta

This study was designed to compare the effects of speech and speech-plus-sign stimulation during comprehension treatment on the oral language learning and generalization of action + object relational meanings. The home-reared Down's syndrome children in Early Stage I received concurrent comprehension treatment in Speech and Speech-Sign conditions using a miniature linguistic system. Upon attainment of criterion level performance in both conditions, generalization tasks were administered to measure the effects of the comprehension treatment of the comprehension and the production of treated and untreated action + object combinations. The results obtained from this study indicated that the two treatment conditions did not differ significantly for either learning or generalization. The data did, however, indicate the individual patterns of acquisition were evident among the children. Caution is advised concerning the automatic adoption or rejection of manual signs as part of oral language intervention programs.
Exceptional Parent 13 (6): 49-52 (1983 Dec)

Signing vs. Silence

Derr, Jo Ann Simons

The mother of a four-year-old with Down's syndrome describes how sign language instruction helped not only to increase his manual expression but his oral speech as well.
Education & Training of the Mentally Retarded 18 (2): 103-110 (1983 Apr)

A comparison of oral and total communication modalities on the language training of young mentally handicapped children

Weller, Emy L.; Mahoney, Gerald J.
Pasadena City College, Learning Assistance Center

This study was designed to compare the effects of speech and speech-plus-sign stimulation during comprehension treatment on the oral language learning and generalization of action + object relational meanings. The home-reared Down's syndrome children in Early Stage I received concurrent comprehension treatment in Speech and Speech-Sign conditions using a miniature linguistic system. Upon attainment of criterion level performance in both conditions, generalization tasks were administered to measure the effects of the comprehension treatment of the comprehension and the production of treated and untreated action + object combinations. The results obtained from this study indicated that the two treatment conditions did not differ significantly for either learning or generalization. The data did, however, indicate the individual patterns of acquisition were evident among the children. Caution is advised concerning the automatic adoption or rejection of manual signs as part of oral language intervention programs.
Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded 18 (2): 103-10 (1983 Apr)

A Comparison of Oral and Total Communication Modalities on the Language Training of Young Mentally Handicapped Children

Derr, Jo Ann Simons

The relative effectiveness of total communication and oral communication training in a parent-assisted, home-based language intervention program was studied with 15 Down's syndrome children, 18-36 months old.
Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education Dissertation p. 114 (1981)

A Comparison of Oral and Signed-English Communication Training With Down's Syndrome Children in a Parent-Assisted Language Intervention Program

Weller, Emy Lu
University of California, Los Angeles

During the past five years a dramatic increase has occurred in the use of manual sign language in schools for mentally retarded children who are 5 years of age or younger and have delayed speech but essentially normal hearing. The purpose of this research was to compare the effects of oral language training and signed-English training (speech paired with siqns) on the language and cognitive development of 2- and 3-year old Down's Syndrome children. Fifteen Down's Syndrome children in Los Angeles County who were between the ages of 13 and 36 months,had fewer than 50 words in their spoken vocabulary, and were absent of severe visual, hearing, and motor handicaps were randomly assigned to one of two training groups. Children who attended the same school were randomly assigned as a group to one of the two training groups. One group (seven subjects) received oral language train- ing using the procedures of the home-based, parent- assisted Environmental Language Intervention Program developed by MacDonald and Blott (1975) and the other group (eight subjects) received the same training except that words taught were supplemented with signs from Signing Exact English (Gustasen, Pfetzing, & Zawolkow, 1972). Groups were compared prior to and after language intervention using the Receptive-Expressive Emergent Language Scale, Environmental Prelanguage Battery, maternal reports of child oral- and signed-vocabulary, Ordinal Scales of Psychological Development (Uzgiris- Hunt), and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. Analyses of variance indicated no significant differences at pretesting and posttesting between the language and cognitive measures of the oral- and signed-English groups except for the number of signs acquired at post- testing. However, girls in both groups gained significantly more words-spoken (and/or signed) and made significantly more gains in Verbal Imitation (Uzgiris-Hunt) than the boys. Correlational analyses indicated significantly positive correlations between posttest language measures and the ages of the children's mothers and the sex, CAs, DAs, pretest language scores, and number of siblings of the children. Means-Ends and Verbal Imitation scores from the Ordinal Scales were significantly correlated with the language scores of children in both groups. It was concluded that oral- and signed-English language training were comparable in their effectiveness in promoting language and cognitive development of 2- and 3-year old Down's Syndrome children, the Environmental Lanquage Intervention Program was significantly effective in promoting language development, and the use of signs did not inhibit oral language development. The major limitations of this study were the short-term nature of the project (6 months) and the lack of fluency in signed-English by parent-trainers in the signed-English group. Further research is needed to explain the wide range of variability within both groups in response to language training, the significant sex differences favoring the girls in both groups, the significant relationship between language gains and the ages of the subjects' mothers and the number of siblings, and the effects of sign-use on oral language development.
Journal of Mental Deficiency Research 22 (1): 19-25 (1978 Mar)

The effect of sign language on picture naming in two retarded girls possessing normal hearing

Kotkin, R. A.; Simpson, S. B.; Desanto, Debbie
University of Southern California

Used a multiple baseline design to investigate the effects of simultaneous sign/verbal (SV) presentation on the acquisition of verbal labeling of 2 Down's syndrome girls, ages 6 and 7 yrs. Results show that the simultaneous sign/verbal presentation was more effective than verbal training alone in facilitating the retarded child's ability to verbally label pictures. In addition, the Ss were able to retain the verbal labels 1 wk later with no interim training. It is suggested that a sign/verbal presentation of new vocabulary may decrease the time spent in training through verbal presentation alone. Further research with a larger population of language impaired children is suggested.