The purpose of this teacher inquiry is to explore the effects of signing and gesturing on the expressive language development of non-verbal children. The first phase of my inquiry begins with the observations of several non-verbal students with various etiologies in three different educational settings. The focus of these observations is to identify current sign and gesture usage and determine the students' abilities to acquire signed language as as additional form of expression and whether or not there is potential value in that acquisition. I also want to explore any differences in signed language acquisition between children with Downs Syndrome and children who are on the Autism Spectrum.The next phase of inquiry includes surveys of Early Intervention speech language and behavioral therapists to establish if signing is a commonly used intervention and determine the therapists' opinions regarding the value of incorporating signing among non-verbal clients. The final phase of this inquiry includes interviews with parents of non-verbal children who have received training in signed language during Early Intervention to explore the family component of learning a second language to facilitate basic communication. Through my work, I hope to encourage larger scale research projects that could determine potential benefits of incorporating signed language throughout a non-verbal child's education.



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