Gesture Development Predicts Language Milestones

Types of Gestures

Prelinguistic Gestures – used prior to spoken language, including deictic gestures which are used to gain adult attention (such as showing, giving pointing)
Recognitory Gestures – actions carried out on an object that depict the object in terms of its function (often used during symbolic play schemes such as pretending to use a banana as a telephone)
Representational Gestures – symbolic actions that represent an object or concept (such as flapping arms to represent a bird flying)
Conventional Gestures – meant to serve a social function (such as waving good-bye)
Beat Gestures – provide emphasis while speaking but convey no semantic information
Complementary Gestures – gesture that are used WITH language
Supplementary Gestures – gestures that are used to REPLACE language

Development of Gestures

Adapted from “Gesture Development: A Review for Clinical and Research Practices” by Nina C. Capone and Karla K. McGregor, 2004, Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, Vol. 47, 183.

Key Take-Aways from Capone and Mcgregor (2004)

  • Gesture enhances language development and aids the transition to spoken language
  • Gesture use predicts later spoken language abilities (if a child is using a gesture combined with a word, it is likely they will soon combine two spoken words)
  • Gesture scaffolds oral language
  • Direct teaching of gestures leads to an increase in gesture use
  • Gesture use helps to predict if a child is a late bloomer or late talker – late bloomers are more likely to use gesture compared to late talkers (click here for more info from ASHA on late bloomers vs. late talkers)

Capone, Nina C., and Karla K. Mcgregor. “Gesture Development.” Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, vol. 47, no. 1, Feb. 2004, pp. 173–186., doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2004/015).


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