GESTURES- EARLY PREDICTORS OF COMMUNICATIVE DEVELOPMENT
What are some of the early prelinguistic skills in young children and WHY are these skills so fundamental to communicative development? If you think about it, it's easy to recognize that gestures are symbolic in nature. Therefore, if you understand the meaning of a given gesture (which is a symbol) you will be able to communicate with others (exchange gestures). And, there have been numerous studies conducted over the years across the world on relationship between gesture use and later verbal communication development in young children. In a nutshell, it's been established that gestures are rather reliable predictors of how a child's verbal communication will unfold and whether there should be a concern for a communication related delay/disorder. In addition, delays in gestural communication often indicate delays in cognitive development as well as in play. So, as you patiently wait for your little one's first words observe these precursor- nonverbal skills and gesture use to understand if your child can think symbolically:
- Eye- contact
- Gestural communication (pointing (big one!), shaking head yes/ no, high fiving, blowing kisses, waving, clapping, giving items, reaching for objects, and others)
- Joint attention (ability to focus on an object together with the caregiver- acknowledge the shared focus): shifting eye- gaze from caregiver to the object in sight
If you child presents with fleeting eye-contact, difficulty achieving back and forth nonverbal signaling and/or is lacking with understanding and/or expressing gesture use this might be a reason for concern.