Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


Document Type


Date of this Version



Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 2005, 40(2), 158–170.


Copyright 2005 Division on Developmental Disabilities


Children with developmental disabilities often have difficulty with joint attention that can affect more advanced communication skills. This study evaluated the complexity of child engagement behaviors demonstrated by twenty-five pre-intentional children (age 9 to 25 months), who had developmental disabilities and were at risk for being nonspeaking. During free play with their parents, these children demonstrated infrequent and simple gaze shifts and focused more on individual objects or people than shared attention with parents during play. These children seldom engaged in coordinated attention behaviors such as shifting gaze back and forth between people and objects during their play with parents. Type and frequency of engagement behaviors are discussed relative to understanding the unique challenges for children with developmental disabilities that include motor and visual impairments.