The ability of young children with cerebral palsy to understand language can accurately predict their language skills and difficulties later in life, according to a recent study.
The study also concluded that children with cerebral palsy who are unable to speak should receive early intervention to help them overcome speech difficulties and to avoid developmental delays as they grow.
The study,“Longitudinal growth of receptive language in children with cerebral palsy between 18 months and 54 months of age,” was published in the journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.
Many children with cerebral palsy do not receive appropriate speech and language intervention until they enter preschool, partly because there is little information on how communication skills develop and what can predict language outcomes in these children. This means that they may be missing critical early treatment interventions.
“If we identify children with cerebral palsy as young as 24 to 30 months who are very likely to have significant language problems later in life, we may be able to change or improve the course of their development through very early speech-language therapy,” Katherine Hustad, lead author of the study and a professor and chair of the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders at UW–Madison, said in a news release.
To understand how toddlers with cerebral palsy develop their language capacities and to discover how early language skills may predict disease outcomes, the team led by Hustad followed the development of language capacity in 85 children with cerebral palsy (43 girls and 42 boys) over several years, from the ages of 18 months to 4.5 years.
They examined the evolution of language-comprehension skills in three groups of children with cerebral palsy: those with no motor speech impairments, those with motor speech impairments, and those unable to articulate speech, a condition known as anarthria. The progression of these skills in each group was compared to that expected for typically developing children.
The capacity of a child to understand language was assessed using different tests at various points throughout the study. The scores were converted to age-equivalent values and compared to the chronological age of the child to determine if there were development delays.