Joint Attention Skills and Language Development in Special Needs Populations: Translating Research to Practice

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Recent research has documented the importance of joint attention skills to language development in young typical children. A number of studies have also examined joint attention skills in children with different disabilities. This article reviews the literature concerning joint attention skills in children with specific language difficulties—children with Down syndrome, deafness, and autism. Our review focuses on joint attention that is conceptualized both as a state and as declarative gestures, and covers issues related to topic control in mother-child interactions, proportion of time spent in joint attention, caregiver strategies within episodes of joint attention, and child contributions to joint attention. Research findings are then discussed in terms of translating these findings to intervention practice.

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