Effective Methods for Increasing Gesture Use for Children with ASD

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
J. R. Miller and A. B. Barber, Communicative Disorders, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Gesture development, use, and repertoire differ in young children with ASD (Manwaring et al., 2018 and Watson et al., 2013). Gestures play a fundamental role in social interaction and therefore are often an important intervention outcome in early interventions. Ingersoll (2006) taught imitation and spontaneous use of descriptive gestures in young children with autism using a naturalistic behavioral intervention and found all participants increased their imitations of gestures. Techniques used included RIT (reciprocal imitation training) which is a naturalistic intervention with the combinations of incidental teaching, milieu teaching, and pivotal response training. Ingersoll (2010) studied the impact of object and gesture imitation training on language use in children with ASD and found that teaching gestural imitation training alongside object imitation training lead to higher rate of language use than just object imitation alone. Cardon (2012) taught caregivers to implement video modeling imitation training via iPad for their children with autism and found all participants demonstrated increases in the level of imitation and made gains in expressive language. These are two of many intervention methodologies that teach gestures, what’s left unknown is a comparison of those interventions to establish which are effective. While the previous research indicates ample evidence of what gestures look like, and their relationship to social communication, there is little evidence of what methods are most effective for reaching these gestures and which methods are most often used by practioners.


1. To evaluate which methods are most effective for increasing gestures use; and 2. To survey practicing speech language pathologists to determine which methods are most frequently used to teach gestures to young children with ASD.


An evidence-based systematic review of literature is currently being completed. Methods were considered effective if gesture use was a dependent variable and increased post intervention.

The second step of this research study was to survey practicing Speech-language pathologists regarding their methods used for teaching gestures. Pending human subjects board review, the three question survey will be distributed through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The survey asks questions such as what methods are being used during intervention, what methods have been effective in teaching gestures, which methods have been ineffective, how have these methods effected social communication?


Based on established criteria, 80 articles were initially included that used a specific methodology to teach gestures to children with ASD under 5 years of age. Articles were summarized and analyzed for information pertaining to methods currently being taught and their effectiveness not only in teaching gestures to children with ASD.


Preliminary findings support Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (Schreibman et al., 2015) as the most effective method, along with an emphasis on imitation. Imitation includes techniques such as: RIT (reciprocal imitation training) and VMIT (video modeling imitation training). Parent implemented trainings incorporated within the methods being used are crucial to the effectiveness of the therapy process as well.