Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

by WALSH, JEANNETTA S., Educat.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 1986, 113; 8704316
Abstract (Summary)

The development of language has been related to the sensorimotor abilities described by Piaget. Studies have shown that some of these sensorimotor abilities relate to preverbal skills. Little, however, is known about the relationship between pointing and the sensorimotor abilities.

Pointing is the first clear manifestation of the referental function of language. As such it is considered fundamental to the later development of speech. Some developmentally-delayed children experience difficulty with the acquisition of pointing. Thus, knowing the conditions which facilitate its development is an important instructional issue.

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between the acquisition of pointing and object permanence, spatial relations, means-end, object schemes, object causality, and gestural imitation. A sample of 30 language-delayed preschoolers formed two equal groups of Pointers and Nonpointers. It was hypothesized that pointing subjects would differ significantly from nonpointing subjects in their greater acquisition of each sensorimotor ability.

The acquisition of each sensorimotor ability was determined by subjects' pass or fail performance on six separate tasks selected from the Ordinal Scales of Psychological Development. The Fisher Exact Probability Test was performed on the resulting data to detect statistical differences.

It was found that the acquisition of pointing relates to the acquisition of object schemes (p < .01), spatial relations (p < .01), and means-end (p < .05), but not to the acquisition of object permanence, object causality, and gestural imitation. Specifically, demonstrating the use of common objects, placing objects inside another, and using a string as an intermediary were shown to be involved in the acquisition of pointing. Finding an object visibly displaced under one of three screens, discovering the operation of a mechanical toy, and imitating unfamiliar, visible gestures were shown not to be associated with pointing.

The findings suggest that the acquisition of reference, i.e. pointing, is influenced by cognitive development in object schemes, spatial relations, and means-end, and that delay in the ability to point may involve delay in acquiring these sensorimotor abilities.

Additional results were also reported. Most notably, gestural imitation was found to relate significantly to the preverbal skill of gesturing for adult attention.

Indexing (document details)
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 47/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Special education
Publication Number: 8704316
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