Gesture Use in the Conversation of Korean Children with High-Functioning ASD: Focused on Communicative Functions and Types of Gestures
Gestures play an important role in conversation by accompanying and amplifying information conveyed in speech. Deficits in using communicative gestures in ASD have been reported repeatedly. Early studies found reduced rates of gestures in children with ASD, however recent studies have reported that it is the type and function of gestures that is limited rather than a decrease in gesture frequency. Limitations in the gesture use of children with ASD can also have a negative effect on conversation.
This study aimed to investigate gesture use in the conversation of children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) focused on communicative functions and types of gestures
The participants were 17 HFASD children and 34 typically developing children (TD) matched on chronological age, language age, and IQ. The HFASD were diagnosed as having ASD first by a psychiatrist, and then confirmed using ADOS-2(mean=11.94, range=8-20). The mean chronological age in months of the HFASD group was 98.83±18.60, and the TD group was 99.31±20.70. The language age of the HFASD group was 88.72±22.16 and the TD group was 92.25±23.38. The mean IQ of the children with HFASD was 99.55±9.96 and TD children was 99.28±13.62.
Behavior samples of the participants were collected during conversation with the examiner through a semi-structured procedure (Choi & Lee, 2013). The samples were recorded using two camcorders.
The gestures of the participants were analyzed according to the communicative function of the gesture, which were categorized as serving the function of responsiveness or assertiveness (Dore, 1986). Gestures were also grouped into four gesture types; deictic, iconic, markers (conventional), and speech beats (Goldin-Meadow & Mylander, 1984). The total number of gestures, and the number of gesture according to communicative function and type were measured.
The total number of gestures were not significantly different between the two groups (t=-.087, p=0.922). The HFASD group (23.13±15.40) used a similar number of gestures as the TD group (23.50±12.11).
In contrast to the similar frequency of gesture use, significant differences were observed in the communicative functions and the types of gestures. Compared to the TD group, HFASD group used responsiveness function gestures significantly less often, however, there was not a significant difference in the use of gestures that served the assertive function (t=-4.189, p<.001).
In the number of type of gesture, the HFASD group used iconic gestures the most (9.66±9.48) and beats gestures the least (2.60±3.24). In contrast, the TD group used markers gestures the most (12.56±6.15) and deictic gestures the least (1.71±2.30). A significant difference between the two groups was observed in a markers gestures only (t=-2.921, p<.01).
In the results of the study, the HFASD children used a similar number of gestures during conversation; however, they showed significant differences in the communicative function and types of gestures. The HFASD children used more gestures that fulfilled the assertiveness function, and significantly more marker gestures than TD children as well. The results of the study showed that the different gesture use of the HFASD children was closely related to their limited social abilities.