Strengthening Gestures: A Critical Component to Building Robust Communication Skills for Autistic Children

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1.0 Type II CE Credit

About the presentation: 
The use of gestures in early child development is highly related to the development of language and communication. Research has repeatedly shown that children who are later diagnosed with autism use fewer gestures to point things out to others (i.e., show and share) and to request things from others (i.e., mand). Recent research has shown that these differences can be seen even before 12 months of age. Given the altogether lower levels of gestures observed in children with autism and the important role they play in learning language and other important social interaction skills, early intervention programs should focus on developing gestures as foundational to building robust communication repertoires. This presentation will provide an overview of how gestures are related to language development, how providers may inadvertently diminish gestures, how to implement procedures to strengthen and improve gestures, and how to capitalize on gestures as an active ingredient in quality mand training for children diagnosed with autism.

Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will be able to describe how early gesture use is related to later language outcomes.
  • Attendees will be able describe gesture use differs in early childhood development for children with and without autism.
  • Attendees will be able to describe the importance of indicating responses in quality mand training.

About the presenter:

Dr. Shillingsburg serves as Senior Vice President of Children’s Clinical Services and Training at May Institute, providing clinical leadership to all children’s programs including the May Center Schools and our home- and center-based services. She holds a joint appointment as Assistant Director of the National Autism Center at May Institute.

Dr. Shillingsburg received her PhD in clinical psychology from Auburn University and completed her pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the Marcus Autism Center. She previously served as the Director of the Language and Learning Clinic at the Marcus Autism Center and was Associate Professor at Emory University in the Division of Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities.

Dr. Shillingsburg is a licensed psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) at the doctoral level. Her clinical expertise includes the development of language and behavioral programming to address a variety of behavioral difficulties and social communication deficits associated with autism and other developmental disabilities.Dr. Shillingsburg has published over 45 empirical papers on interventions for children with developmental disabilities. She is currently an Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and an editorial board member for Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. She is a a former Associate Editor of The Analysis of Verbal Behavior.