Palm orientation reversal errors (e.g., producing the ‘bye-bye’ gesture with palm facing inward rather than outward as is customary in American culture) have been documented in the signing of deaf and hearing children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and in the imitation of gestures by signing and non-signing children with ASD. However the source of these unusual errors remains opaque. Given that children with ASD have documented difficulties with both imitation and motor skills, it is important to clarify the nature of these errors. Here we present a longitudinal case study of a single child with ASD, a hearing, signing child of Deaf parents. Samples of the child’s signing were analyzed at ages 4;11, 6;2, 10;2, and 14;11. Lexical signs and fingerspelled letters were coded for the four parameters of sign articulation (handshape, location, movement, and palm orientation). Errors decreased for handshape, location, and movement after age 4;11, but increased on palm orientation from 4;11 and remained high, exceeding 55% of signs by 14;11. Fingerspelled letters contained a large proportion of 180-degree reversals, which suggest an origin in imitation differences, as well as midline-facing errors, suggestive of a motor origin. These longitudinal data suggest that palm orientation errors could be rooted in both imitation differences and motoric difficulties.
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