Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Applied Behavior Analysis

Major Professor

Trevor F. Stokes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Debra Mowery, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Holly Steele, Ph.D.


symbolic gestures, children, communication, baby signs, prompting sequence


Research shows that young children, typically developing with no developmental delays, hearing impairments or visual impairments, can acquire sign language to communicate their wants or needs prior to their ability to communicate through spoken language. However, much of the research reviewed focused on whether it was normative for young children to use signs or symbolic gestures to represent objects, make requests, or to express other wants or needs. In addition, many of the studies reviewed lacked scientific rigor and were primarily anecdotal in that much of the data relied on parent reports of his/her child's production of signs or symbolic gestures. The present study expanded upon the procedures of Thompson, McKerchar, and Dancho (2004) by teaching more complex signing repertoires using different training procedures. This study examined the acquisition of functional sign language by typically developing infants, ranging in age from 10 months to 14 months, using a training program which consisted of three components. The three components of intervention included a 30 minute group class once per week, an intensive or "booster" 1:1 session twice per week, and parent led training in the participant's home environment. During intervention a variety of concept items such as toys, pictures, books, and real objects were presented to represent the signs were utilized. A multiple baseline design across pairs of behaviors was employed to assess experimental changes in signing repertoires during the intervention conditions. All participants demonstrated zero rates of signing during baseline and showed an increase in their signing repertoires during intervention phases.