The use of gesture in exploring the borderlands of autism and specific language impairment : a vital accompaniment to communication , or an irrelevant slight of hand?
This thesis explored the potential that analysis of gesture may have in helping to understand better the difficulties of children with specific language impairment and children with autism. An initial review of the literature in this area focused on differences between children with specific language impairment and children with autism in terms of verbal and then non-verbal communication skills. These were then drawn together and potential areas for future research examining the use of gesture in children with developmental difficulties were identified. An investigation was then carried out comparing typically developing children, children with autistic spectrum disorders and children with specific language impairments with regards to their gesture use. Significant group differences in the type and frequency of gesture use were observed. Implications of these findings were discussed and areas for future research were identified. Group differences were also investigated using the Children’s Communication Checklist, (Bishop, 1998) a questionnaire originally designed to assess pragmatic abilities in children with language difficulties. Children with autistic spectrum disorders were shown to have a different profile of results to those with specific language impairment. These results were compared to those from similar study carried out previously and the implications were discussed. Finally, methodological and ethical considerations along with personal and professional reflections were considered in the reflective research review.