Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

pp 2418-2419


  • Cheryl Smith GabigAffiliated withIrving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Psychology Yale University School of Medicine, Chief, Child Psychiatry Children's Hospital at Yale-New Haven Child Study CenterDepartment of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, Lehman College/The City University of New York Email author 


Comment; Communicative act


A primitive speech act used to establish social interaction and direct a caregiver’s attention to an object, action, or entity. It is referred to as a protodeclarative because the directed attention to an object, action, or entity by the child acts as a comment in a communicative exchange. A protodeclarative may take several gestural forms including pointing to, showing, or giving of objects. The gesture may or may not be accompanied by a ritualized vocalization. The protodeclarative appears in typically developing children between 8 and 9 months of age. It is thought to demonstrate a shift in cognitive-linguistic development in that its use reflects the child’s conscious intent to initiate social interaction and establish joint attention to an object, action, or entity with a caregiver.

Children with autism engage less often in the intentional use of protodeclarative gestures such as pointing, showing, and giving, meant to e ...

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