The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Communication Sciences and Disorders: M.S.


Communication Sciences and Disorders


School of Health and Human Services

First Advisor

Joy McKenzie

Second Advisor

Mili Mathew

Third Advisor

Amanda Hemmesch Breaker

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Hand gestures are an integral part of human communication (Gullberg et al., 2010). Research has demonstrated that referential (those that reflect meaning) gestures, begin to develop before a child reaches one year of age, and plays an important role in language acquisition (Vila-Gimenez & Prieto, 2021; Rohlfing et al., 2017). However, this link has been less established for nonreferential (those that do not reflect meaning) gestures, also referred to as beats. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the use of non-referential gestures in Canadian-English speaking typically developing children aged 5 to 9. Patterns of use of beat gestures were examined through a story retelling task. It was determined that children aged 5 to 9 used beats with adult-like characteristics; i.e., with well-defined stroke phases. Additionally, the children used more beats when compared to referential gestures. Younger children (5.0-6.11) were seen to use referential gestures more frequently with content than function words, while older children (7.0-8.11) used beats with both function and content words. However, these developmental trends were not substantiated by statistical analyses. These outcomes could suggest that children aged 5-9 years have not yet formed a clear link between the use of gestures with spoken output. Findings from this study leave avenues for future research to identify how beat gestures align with spoken output across a range of discourse tasks and populations.