Joint Engagement and the Emergence of Language in Children with Autism and Down Syndrome

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Lauren B Adamson
Roger Bakeaman
Deborah Deckner-Davis
MaryAnn Romski
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Journal Article, Professional Journal
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Systematic longitudinal observations were made as typically-developing toddlers and young children with autism and with Down syndrome interacted with their caregivers in order to document how joint engagement developed over a year-long period and how variations in joint engagement experiences predicted language outcome. Children with autism displayed a persistent deficit in coordinated joint attention; children with Down syndrome were significantly less able to infuse symbols into joint engagement. For all groups, variations in amount of symbol-infused supported joint engagement, a state in which the child attended to a shared object and to language but not actively to the partner, contributed to differences in expressive and receptive language outcome, over and above initial language capacity.
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