[lg policy] Dissertation: The Signing of Deaf Children with Autism: Lexical phonology and perspective-taking in the visual-spatial modality

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 14 14:10:24 UTC 2010

The Signing of Deaf Children with Autism: Lexical phonology and
perspective-taking in the visual-spatial modality

Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Aaron Shield

Dissertation Title: The Signing of Deaf Children with Autism: Lexical
phonology and perspective-taking in the visual-spatial modality

Subject Language(s): American Sign Language (ase)

Dissertation Director:
Richard P. Meier

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation represents the first systematic study of the sign
language of deaf children with autism. The signing of such children is of
particular interest because of the unique ways that some of the known
impairments of autism are likely to interact with sign language. In
particular, the visual-spatial modality of sign requires signers to
understand the visual perspectives of others, a skill which may require
theory of mind, which is delayed in autism (Baron-Cohen et al., 1985). It
is hypothesized that an impairment in visual perspective-taking could lead
to phonological errors in American Sign Language (ASL), specifically in the
parameters of palm orientation, movement, and location.

Twenty-five deaf children and adolescents with autism (10 deaf-of-deaf and
15 deaf-of-hearing) between the ages of 4;7 and 20;3 as well as a control
group of 13 typically-developing deaf-of-deaf children between the ages of
2;7 and 6;9 were observed in a series of studies, including naturalistic
observation, lexical elicitation, fingerspelling, imitation of nonsense
gestures, two visual perspective-taking tasks, and a novel sign learning
task. The imitation task was also performed on a control group of 24
hearing, non-signing college students. Finally, four deaf mothers of deaf
autistic children were interviewed about their children's signing. Results
showed that young deaf-of-deaf autistic children under the age of 10 are
prone to making phonological errors involving the palm orientation
parameter, substituting an inward palm for an outward palm and vice versa.
There is very little evidence that such errors occur in the typical
acquisition of ASL or any other sign language. These results indicate that
deaf children with autism are impaired from an early age in a cognitive
mechanism involved in the acquisition of sign language phonology, though it
remains unclear which mechanism(s) might be responsible. This research
demonstrates the importance of sign language research for a more complete
understanding of autism, as well as the need for research into atypical
populations for a better understanding of sign language linguistics.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.
(H. Schiffman, Moderator)

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list