Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020


Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



Speech-Language Pathologists often infuse manual signs into oral language interventions for children with various communication disorders. The current study was designed to learn more about sign-infused language intervention by examining one novice clinician’s use of signs during oral language intervention with a child diagnosed as a late talker. The researcher was the clinician, and while a novice interventionist, she was proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) and had five years of experience using ASL with others. The child was 26 months of age at the start of the study, and data collection included three pre-intervention sessions, 12 intervention sessions, and three post-intervention sessions. Analyses focused on the researcher and child’s frequencies and types of sign, ratios of signs to words, and changes in spoken language behavior.

Results showed that the researcher produced all of the planned signs at high frequencies during the intervention, and she also produced a number of spontaneous signs, although these decreased as the sessions progressed. The frequency of her sign use increased as the sessions progressed and by the end, her sign to word ratio was close to 80% as recommended in the literature. Also, of those planned, verbs were signed most frequently, followed by nouns and prepositions. When the researcher’s spoken language behaviors were examined across sessions and by utterances with and without signs, no differences were detected.

By comparison, the child signed WANT only once during the intervention and post- intervention sessions, but her spoken language significantly increased as the sessions progressed. From the pre- to post-sessions, the child increased her number of utterances, mean length of utterance (MLU), total words, and total different words.

The findings indicate that novice clinicians who know sign can implement a sign-infused language intervention with late talkers and that this intervention can lead to positive gains in the child’s language abilities. Clinicians can use the findings of the current study to show parents the benefits of signs for increasing late talkers’ spoken language development.

Committee Chair

Oetting, Janna