On not being noticed: intellectual disabilities and the non-vocal register

Gestures unaccompanied by sound risk not being registered by their intended recipient. We chart examples of this in a video recording of a meeting between people with intellectual disabilities and support staff in a group home. The recordings reveal that even individuals with very limited spoken language can, and do, design non-vocal gestures to make intelligible contributions to the conversation as it is unfolding. But they are often unseen. Were such contributions to be noticed and taken up, we argue, they would reveal a variety of substantive contributions to the interaction, notably residents' concerns to display their understanding of the current topic and its interactional requirements, for themselves and others. We consider whether, and how, such unratified contributions may arise out of a dilemma faced by staff, and manifest a diminished identity that staff members (and researchers) unwittingly impose on residents.