Premature births account for about 1 in 10 American babies. These children are at greater risk of adverse outcomes in a wide range of neurodevelopmental domains, including language. They also are at an increased risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as other behavioral problems.
Preschool is an important time for language development. Preterm children who lack language skills will not catch up to their full-term peers. It’s important to assess their language skills accurately to determine if they are in need of early intervention.
Standardized assessments or tests are a common way to evaluate language skills. Language sample analysis is another way to analyze language skills. This provides a lot of information about a child’s overall language skills and conversational skills. This test is highly diagnostic, but very few studies have used it in conjunction with standard assessment outcomes for preterm children.
A researcher at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Education and colleagues investigated the impact of preterm delivery on language outcomes in preterm and full term preschoolers using both standardized assessment methods and language sample analysis.
The researchers also measured language skills that included semantic and grammatical abilities. They also examined nonlinguistic developmental skills such as attention, hyperactivity, and nonverbal intelligence.
The results of the study were published in Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchThe results show that preterm children performed worse when their language skills were measured using language sample analysis rather than standardized assessment. All language skill measures derived from the language sample analyses showed statistically significant differences between the groups. The researchers found only one difference in language skills between the two groups of children who were assessed using the standardized assessments.
The researchers found no differences between the two groups in terms of nonverbal factors, such as ADHD and nonverbal Intelligence in either the standardized assessment or the language sample analysis. None of the nonlinguistic skills were responsible for significant differences in the language sample variables observed between the groups.
Researchers found statistically significant differences among the two groups in their grammatical measures from the language sample analyses. Preterm children exhibited substantial grammatical difficulties. These children displayed language deficits in discourse-level semantic skills and grammatical skills, which were not apparent from standardized assessment. This was unexpected by the researchers.
“Language difficulties may still exist even though preterm children appear to be developing normally when they’re evaluated by standardized assessments of their global language ability, cognition and and attention,” said Caitlin Imgrund, Ph.D. Senior author and assistant professor at FAU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. These group differences cannot also be attributed to nonlinguistic factors, such as hyperactivity, inattention, or nonverbal intelligence.
The study has important clinical implications for preterm child practitioners. Deficits in conversational skills can be difficult to assess using the traditional standardized assessments. This underscores the importance to use both language sample analysis as well as standardized assessment to measure expressive language skills.
Materials provided by Florida Atlantic University. Note: Content may be edited to improve style and length.