Authors: Clibbens J, Powell GG, Atkinson E
Title: Strategies for Achieving Joint Attention when Signing to Children with Down’s Syndrome
Source: International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 2002 37(3): 309-323
Year: 2002
Research Design: Single Case Design

Research indicates that joint attention is an important factor in determining the rate and nature of early vocabulary development in typically developing children. Studies conducted with deaf children acquiring sign language indicate that caregivers adopt special strategies for achieving joint attention with this group: these strategies make allowance for the visual medium in which the language is transmitted. Joint attention is also important for the development of communication in children with Down's syndrome, who also often have restricted attentional capacity. Moreover, there is good evidence that the use of signed input in addition to speech can have significant benefits for these children. This paper reports on a study designed to explore the utility of strategies observed in deaf parents for the achievement of joint attention when signing with children with Down's syndrome. Data are presented from recordings of four children with Down's syndrome and their mothers. The results showed that the mothers were successful in enabling the child to perceive both signed input and contextual referents much of the time, but that the range of strategies used was very limited compared to deaf parents of deaf children. Adopting a wider range of strategies would allow a considerable increase in signed input. Implications for intervention programmes are discussed.

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