HANDS ON
Creative strategies for
language development in
signing children
Nicola Grove
AGOSCI
COMMUNICATION: FEEL THE
POWER
7-9 May 2009
AIMS
• To raise awareness of problems in
language development for signing
children
• To provide evidence of language
development in sign
• To illustrate practical strategies
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TOTAL COMMUNICATION
• The use of all forms of communication that are
useful to the child in any context
• Sign and speech are both face to face, best for
fast, interpersonal direct communication.
Problems with memory and intelligibility
• Sign and gesture good for dynamic action - verbs
• Vocalisation and speech - calling attention,
emotional meaning, names
• Facial expression and body language, convey
attitude and emotion
• Picture boards; slower, with double focus, but
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• Useful for names, specfic places and people, recall;
compensates for memory difficulties, more
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intelligible
ASSUMPTIONS
• Sign is a useful route to language
and communication development
• Some children with ID will remain
highly dependent on sign as their
means of communication
• They need support and teaching to
help them develop their language
skills in sign
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CORTICAL REPRESENTATION
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SIGN LANGUAGES AND
SYSTEMS
• LANGUAGES
• Natural evolution
• Structure
independent of
spoken language
• Primary means of
communication
• Australian Sign
Language, BSL, ASL
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• SYSTEMS
• Devised
• Structure based on
spoken language
• Used as means of
education and
remediation
• Makaton, signed
English PagetGorman
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SIGN PARAMETERS
• Handshape
• Different languages have different subsets
• ASLvs BSL
•
•
•
•
•
•
Location
Movement
Orientation
Handedness
Fingerspelling (from spoken language)
Facial gestures; mouth, brow, head,
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SYNTAX IN SIGN
• Linguistic use of space
• Pronominal reference
• directionality
• Tense markers
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MORPHOLOGY IN SIGN
• SASS
• Incorporation
– Location
– Movement (path,manner)
– Directional
• Intensifiers
• Repetition to show number
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HISTORY OF SIGN SYSTEMS
• Use with children and adults with ID
began in 1970s
• Started with people who were Deaf, then
with hearing people with problems in the
perception and production of speech
• Groups
• Intellectual disabilities, SLI, ASD, CP, dysarthria and
dyspraxia, children with oral tract damage,some
adults after acquired brain injury
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SIGNERS WITH DISABILITIES
• Deaf children with intellectual/language
/physical impairments
• Hearing children with impairments
affecting spoken language - eg.
• Specific language impairment
• Central auditory processing difficulties
• Llandau-Kleffner syndrome
• Aphonia
• Children with Down Syndrome
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PROGRESS IN SIGN AND
SPEECH
• Vocalisation + gesture
• Single words/ single signs
• Points +
• Point + Point; Point +word; point+ sign
• Sign + Sign; Sign + Word; Word +
Word
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SIGN DEVELOPMENT
• Children go through systematic
stages of development of sign
parameters
• When looking at the sign use of
children with disabilities, bear this
normal trajectory in mind
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HANDSHAPE
• Hierarchy of production for young
children and people with developmental
delays:1. Unilateral 2. Bilateral 3. Dominant-Assister 4. Reciprocal.
– Bilateral may
movements)
be
earlier
• Handshape development
1. A B 5
2. O (baby O) C G
3. Å F 5
4. V H Y 
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than
unilateral
(mirror
LOCATION & MOVEMENT
•
Location
• Young children use neutral space, arm, head
(cheek, temple, forehead and face)
•
Movement
1. simple>complex
2. contactual action, movement towards signer, up
and down movement
3. twisting, circular, convergent, crossing and
entering movements.
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COMMON ERRORS
• add body contact
• bring into vision
• mirror movements
• lack of inhibition of movement
• substitute simpler handshape
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FACTORS AFFECTING
DEVELOPMENT
+
-
visual feedback
no visual feedback
tactile feedback
no tactile feedback
movement towards
body
movement away from
body
movement at midline
movement crossing
midline
pronation/neutral
supination
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USER GROUPS
• Children who can speak but need signs
to aid receptive language
• Children who need signs as a transitional
stage in developing spoken language
• Children using sign as a back up
• Children dependent on sign and gesture
as their main means of communication
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TYPICAL SITUATION
• Isolated - no community of users
• Signers have lower status than
speakers
• Poor models - one sign per clause(if
you’re lucky)
• Small vocabularies dominated by
nouns
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OPTIONS FOR LANGUAGE
DEVELOPMENT
• Use spoken language as template intermodal language
• Word order
• Morphology
finger spelling suffixes only
• Develop structure within sign
• Sign order
• Morphology - inflect signs
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FINDINGS
• Children who are reliant on sign do not use
spoken language input as template
• Sign combinations are strings with no underlying
structure
• Word order is erratic, in speech as well as sign
• They seem to independently discover creative
modifications to sign
• They can be taught to change the sign to
communicate complex meanings
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WHY?
• Asymmetry between input and
output
(also seen in picture board users:
Smith & Grove)
• Lack of models of contrastive order
in sign in the input
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SYNTAX
processes in SEN
• Children learning sign with English
(Makaton, Signalong, PGSS)
• Sign strings
• ABA structures
• SV
• OV/VO- inconsistent
• Does not seem to reflect English WO
• Neg usually headshake
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MODIFICATIONS SHOWN BY
CHILDREN
• Handshape classifier incorporated in
spatial verb
• “Doubling” for plurals, intensifiers
• Use of facial expression
• Size & shape indicator
• Displacement
• Also found in home signers
• Usually recognised by conversation
partner (teachersNicola
anyway!)
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IDENTIFYING
MODIFICATIONS
• A change to the citation form of the sign
that is consistent with a change in
meaning
• Minimise possibility of underestimating
what the child is doing
• Look for the child’s version of the citation
form in unmarked contexts
• Check with your knowledge of
production errors
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RULES FOR MORPHOLOGY
• Contrast
– Weak: walk/walk-ed
– Strong; walk-ed/walk-ing
• Consistency
– Should appear more than once in
appropriate context
• Generalisation
– Seen across types
– Walk-ed; climb-ed;
(5-6 exemplars usually needed)
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INTERVENTION
• Hand awareness
• Moulding/shaping
• Imitation
• Associated training (in functional
contexts)
• Compensatory approach
• Use the child’s space, don’t sign
opposite
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ASSESSMENT
• Use activities that maximise contrast
• Dynamic activities, encourage child
to tell you what to do
• Video narratives, retell to naïve
listener immediately (Spider
Sandwich)
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INTERVENTION
• Teach morphological contrasts
• Provide complex interesting stimuli
with built in contrasts
• Encourage gesture and mime
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EVIDENCE
Rudd, Grove & Pring, 2007
• 8 children
• Baseline assessments showed some evidence of
spontaneous modification
• Intervention taught specific contrasts, using
matrix training with verbs and nouns
• Post intervention showed significant
improvements
• Two children showed full productive control with
sign modifications contrasted, generalised and
used consistently over a limited range
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Supersign challenges
• Designed to stimulate children into
creative modifications of sign and
gesture
• Based around sign inflections
• Face children with a
communication challenge where
they have to create their own
solutions
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Some challenges
1. Sports event - running, jumping, climbing,
swimming - fast/slow; high/low; up/down
2. Hide and seek - use displacement to say
where to hide or find and object
3. Spells - harry potter - versions of popular
spells eg expelloramus - up,down, round
and round, over and over again, different
people
4. Giving objects - change handshape to
show SASS
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5. Barrier communication
games - matching
objects, picture drawing
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SIGNERS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS