Short report: learning through iconic gesture in autism spectrum disorder

Nicole Dargue*, Naomi Sweller, Mark Carter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Understanding and therefore recalling spoken messages, including narratives, can be challenging for children with autism. While observing gesture can benefit narrative recall in typically developing children, whether observing gesture facilitates narrative recall in children with autism is unclear. 

Aims: This paper examines whether observing iconic gestures affects narrative recall in children with a diagnosis of autism. 

Methods and procedures: We first identified iconic gestures to be observed by participants in the main study. Once appropriate iconic gestures had been identified, children with autism watched one video narrative with iconic gestures and one without gestures. While watching the video narratives, children wore Tobii Pro Glasses-2 to track their eye-movements. After watching each narrative, children were asked questions about the narratives to assess recall. 

Outcomes: Iconic gestures significantly benefitted narrative recall in children with autism beyond watching no gestures, and eye-tracking results suggested gestures helped children focus on the narrator. 

Conclusions and implications: Through identifying appropriate iconic gestures and producing them alongside a verbal narrative, gestures may successfully enhance learning in children with autism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104000
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • autism
  • iconic gesture
  • eye-tracking
  • narrative recall
  • learning
  • communication


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