Children’s joint attention in AAC (summary)


Background One aspect of infant development that is important to social engagement and communication is joint attention. This refers to the relationship among a child, the caregiver and another object. For example, joint attention is evident if an infant and her sister are looking at a book together. This situation is made more complex if the child has access to an aided communication system, which becomes another component in the interaction between an infant and the people and objects in the surrounding environment.

What was the aim of the study? The authors wanted to look at whether certain characteristics of an infant had an effect on joint attention episodes in an interaction that included an aided AAC system. They were interested in the age, language abilities and temperament of the child, and the interactive style of the caregiver.

Why was the paper written? Very little is known about the roles of these factors in interactions that include AAC. The presence of an AAC system could impact infants' attention and focus.

What did the authors do? The authors investigated joint attention in 16 infants aged 9-14 months. They set up interactions that included a tablet computer as a potential AAC device. An infant was seated on the caregiver's lap. The pair faced an experimenter who read a story. The experimenter used both a picture book and a tablet computer which played sounds related to the story.

The authors then investigated the relationships between the age, language abilities and temperament of the infant, the interactive style of the caregiver and episodes of joint attention.

What did they find? When the tablet computer was held near the experimenter's body, older children were more likely to engage in joint attention than younger children. Children with high activity levels, however, were less likely to engage in joint attention than children with lower activity levels.

When the tablet computer was placed farther away from the experimenter, children who, in other situations, were able to focus longest on objects engaged in joint attention more than other children.

Additionally, children engaged in joint attention more often when their caregiver followed the children's focus of attention.

Cautions: The infants in this study were typically developing, so important differences between infants with developmental delays may exist.

Conclusions: The placement of an AAC device – a tablet computer in this study – may present different types of challenges to children with different skills, as not all children will engage with their environment in the same way. Several factors contribute to when and how long infants engage in joint attention. Importantly, children may benefit from adults' following their lead in interactions, rather than adults directing the attention of children to a specific focus.

Things you may want to look into:

high tech AAC

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Added to site August 2013