Chapter 15. The changing role of gesture form and function in a picture book interaction between a child with autism and his support teacher

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Autism is a developmental disorder which impacts on the social, communicative and cognitive abilities of the child. The development of both language and gesture is delayed. Previous research indicates that deictic gestures predominate over representative gestures in this population. This paper presents a case study, Nathan, aged 2:6 years interacting with his support teacher, Joanne. The five minute interaction comprises three distinct phases. In the first phase Joanne engages Nathan’s attention by means of deictic gestures, the second phase shows an increase in iconic gesture, and in the final phase Nathan actively contributes to the interaction both verbally and gesturally. We conclude that Nathan is skilled at understanding and using deictic gestures, at imitating representative gestures and can collaboratively engage in interactions. This study indicates that children with autism may combine communicative modalities with more complexity than previously thought.


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