Preterm Birth and Language

The effect of preterm birth on expressive language: birth-6

By: Carrie McElree

What is Preterm Birth?

  • Term: Birth at 37+ weeks gestation
  • Preterm: Birth before 37 weeks gestation
  • Very Preterm: Birth before 32 weeks gestation

Difficulties associated with preterm birth

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Breathing problems
  • Developmental delays
    • expressive language
Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies

Expressive Language from 6 through 30 Months

Nonverbal Communication of Preterms Compared to Full Terms

  • 6 mos: less re-engagement
  • 9 mos: less gaze following
  • 14 mos: difficulty initiating requests

Feeding Difficulties

  • More feeding difficulties seen at 18 mos in preterms compared to full terms
  • More feeding difficulty at 18 mos, greater degree of language impairment at 30 mos

Early Developmental Delays as Predictors

  • Nonverbal delays and feeding difficulties in early childhood years are important predictors for future language development of a child born preterm.

Expressive Language from 30 mos to 6 Years (School Age)

Lexicon and Grammar

  • At 30 mos, preterms have a greater risk of lexical and grammatical impairment than full terms
  • At 42 mos, the risk of lexical and grammatical development increases in preterms, but decreases in full terms
  • At 36 mos, preterm children use less words per sentence compared to full term children (average difference of about 1.6 words)

Expressive Language at School Age

  • Preterms have more grammatical and vocabulary errors and less understanding of phonological awareness
  • Leads to reading and writing difficulties
  • Note: The difference is not due to cognitive deficits in preterm children!

Why is this Information Important?

  • Greater understanding of areas of language that are of difficulty to preterms
  • Early identification= earlier intervention= better language outcome later in life (especially at school age)

References

Adams-Chapman, I., Bann, C., Carter, S. L., & Stoll, B. J. (2015). Language outcomes among ELBW infants in early childhood. Early Human Development, 91(6), 373-379. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2015.03.011


De Schuymer, L., De Groote, I., Beyers, W., Striano, T., & Roeyers, H. (2011, February). Preverbal skills as mediators for language outcome in preterm and full term children. Early Human Development, 87(4), 265-272. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2011.01.029


Guarini, A., Sansavini, A., Fabbri, C., Alessandroni, R., Faldella, G., & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2009, October). Reconsidering the impact of preterm birth on language outcome. Early Human Development, 85(10), 639-645. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2009.08.061


Preterm birth. (2015, October 28). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pretermbirth.htm


Sansavini, A., Guarini, A., Justice, L. M., Savini, S., Broccoli, S., Alessandroni, R., & Faldella, G. (2010, December). Does preterm birth increase a child's risk for language impairment? Early Human Development, 86(12), 765-772. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2010.08.014


Stene-Larsen, K., Brandlistuen, R. E., Lang, A. M., Landolt, M. A., Latal, B., & Vollrath, M. E. (2014, December). Communication impairments in early term and late preterm children: A prospective cohort study following children to age 36 months. The Journal of Pediatrics, 165(6), 1123-1128. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.08.027


Van Lierde, K. M., Roeyers, H., Boerjan, S., & De Groote, I. (2009, November). Expressive and receptive language characteristics in three-year-old preterm children with exremely low birth weight. Folia Phoniatricia et Logopaedica, 61(5), 296-299. doi:10.1159/000238401