Gestures and words in early development of children with Down syndrome

M. Cristina Caselli, Stefane Vicari, Emiddia Longobardi, Laura Lami, Claudia Pizzoli, Giacomo Stella

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This study investigated the development of language and communication in children with Down syndrome (DS). More specifically, the aim was to examine the relations among verbal comprehension, verbal production, and gesture production in the very early stages of development. Forty children (age range: 10-49 months) with DS and 40 children with normal development (age range: 8-17 months) participated in this study. Children with DS came from two Italian health centers. The communicative and linguistic development of children with DS was measured by administering the Italian version of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory. The children with DS were severely delayed when compared with normally developing children in reaching the developmental stages. In such children a dissociation emerged between verbal comprehension and production, in favor of comprehension, whereas a synchronous development was found between vocal lexical comprehension and gestural production. The individual differences previously reported in these children are also evident in all domains examined. There were no significant differences between children with DS and typically developing controls matched for lexical comprehension on verbal production. However the two groups differed significantly in gestural development, suggesting a 'gesture advantage' in children with DS compared with controls matched for word comprehension. Some possible reasons for this dissociative profile are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1125-1135
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1998


  • Development
  • Down syndrome
  • Gestures
  • Words

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Linguistics and Language


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