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