Communicative Disorders


Harwood, Vanessa

Advisor Department

Communicative Disorders




I hope to continue this research through a master's thesis this fall with more participants and a control group at the University of Rhode Island. Please don't hesitate to reach out if this research topic interests you. I would love to connect.


language development; articulation disorder; manual sign; gestures; speech therapy

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Over the last decade, baby sign language (adapted signs for simple words like milk or mom) has become a trending parenting fad. Although significant research is still lacking on the subject, there is evidence suggesting that the use of early gestures is beneficial in promoting spoken language in typically developing children. Given developmental support for early gesture, this project aims to investigate the use of manual gestures to support speech sound production for a young child with speech and language delay. This project is two-fold. Part one included an extensive literature review of existing research on baby sign, gesture and language acquisition. Part two of the project included field work with a 2.7-year-old boy with history of delayed language and speech. We created a unique motor gesture to mimic the movement of the articulators utilized in the production of each sound. Play based sessions were conducted in which the child received direct instruction on how to produce the gesture as well as verbal input on how to produce the speech sound. Data was collected on the child’s articulation progress across sessions before and after the presence of the supporting motor gesture. The caregiver was provided with instruction on how to promote the use of gestures and was asked to journal on use of gestures within the home. Qualitative analyses suggest that the use of manual gesture may support speech sound production in young children. Further research in this area is needed to provide evidence to support the use of gesture within speech sound interventions for children.