Skills for speech development needed for acquisition of manual signs


Communication is a fundamental human right, at the heart of how we interact with our environment, express choices and build relationships. People with learning disabilities often have difficulties with verbal communication and this study set out to look at the extent to which children with learning disabilities depended on manual signs during the process of acquiring their expressive vocabulary.

Twenty three children took part in the study and were monitored over a two year period.

The study team found four distinct profiles of vocabulary acquisition. The children who initially demonstrated the most significant cognitive, communicative, and comprehension delays acquired the smallest expressive vocabularies during follow-up. Interestingly, these variables were not related to the degree to which the depended on manual signs.

The study authors conclude that cognitive, communicative, and comprehension skills did relate to vocabulary acquisition. The skills that were at the heart of speech development were also required at a fundamental level to enable the acquisition of manual signs.

Expressive vocabulary acquisition in children with intellectual disability: Speech or manual signs?, Vandereet J et al., in Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 36,. 2, 91-104

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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