As adults we don’t realize how often we use our hands to communicate. The same concept applies to babies. Gesturing is one the earliest forms of communication that takes place. Think about it, at times we use the gesture of waving instead of saying hello or goodbye.
One of the first questions that a Speech and Language Therapist should be asking at an initial evaluation parent intake is this: Does your child point?
It's no surprise that this significant milestone is a crucial step that must be met prior to verbal output. In other words, communication is taking place well before a child says a word. The gestures that a child uses even before his or her first word tell us a lot about how their communication development is progressing.
One of the most important language milestones that should be demonstrated is the “show, give, point” concept. This important milestone should emerge around 9-10 months of age. First children show an object, next they give the object to someone, and finally they point. These types of gestures are used prior to a child speaking. Next a child will use gestures to make requests. This will help a child get the desired item of choice and their basic needs met. This will also help alleviate any frustrations as they are communicating with their partner when they may not have the words to do so.
During speech and language therapy sessions, we often teach children who may not have words simple signs (examples: more, all done, open, up). Research has been conducted and there is a strong link between gestures and communication development. Not only are gestures used before spoken words, but studies have shown that the use of gestures predicts when certain language milestones will appear.
As you can see that the gestures a child uses – even before their first words – tell us a lot about how communication development is progressing.