Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Rose A. Sevcik - Chair

Second Advisor

MaryAnn Romski

Third Advisor

Lauren B. Adamson

Fourth Advisor

Roger A. Bakeman


To date, no studies have established the relationship between early communication characteristics for young children with significant disabilities and later language development. This study characterized communication for toddlers (n = 60) fitting this profile and their parents prior to a language intervention utilizing an observational coding scheme and tested whether child and parent communication characteristics were predictive of performance on oral language measures. Language transcripts were coded for child mode and pragmatic function and parent response to the utterance child utterances. Results indicated that children used contact gestures, answering and commenting at the highest rates relative to other communication characteristics. Parents utilized a related response type for 52% of child utterances. Hierarchical regressions revealed that sophisticated gesture usage, word usage, and sophisticated function rate were predictive of expressive oral language performance. Sophisticated gesture usage, sophisticated function rate, and parent MLU were predictive of receptive oral language performance.