Role of maternal gesture use in speech use by children with fragile X syndrome

Laura J. Hahn, B. Jean Zimmer, Nancy C. Brady, Rebecca E. Swinburne Romine, Kandace K. Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate how maternal gesture relates to speech production by children with fragile X syndrome (FXS). Method: Participants were 27 young children with FXS (23 boys, 4 girls) and their mothers. Videotaped home observations were conducted between the ages of 25 and 37 months (toddler period) and again between the ages of 60 and 71 months (child period). The videos were later coded for types of maternal utterances and maternal gestures that preceded child speech productions. Children were also assessed with the Mullen Scales of Early Learning at both ages. Results: Maternal gesture use in the toddler period was positively related to expressive language scores at both age periods and was related to receptive language scores in the child period. Maternal proximal pointing, in comparison to other gestures, evoked more speech responses from children during the mother-child interactions, particularly when combined with wh-questions. Conclusion: This study adds to the growing body of research on the importance of contextual variables, such as maternal gestures, in child language development. Parental gesture use may be an easily added ingredient to parent-focused early language intervention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-159
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Gesture
  • Language development
  • Speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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