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Published in American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Vol. 29 (May 2020), pp 625–637.



Copyright © 2020 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Used by permission.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the language, motor, and cognitive abilities of children born preterm in four categories: (a) healthy preterm infants, (b) infants of diabetic mothers, (c) infants with respiratory distress syndrome, and (d) infants with chronic lung disease when the children were 30 months, uncorrected age. Comorbidity of language, motor, and cognitive skills was examined, along with predictor variables.

Method: A total of 148 children who were born preterm participated and were assessed using bivariate tests and logistic regression on standardized assessment scores.

Results: Controlling for the children’s gestational age (GA), overall language ability was significantly lower in the infants of diabetic mothers group compared to the healthy preterm infant group, and expressive language skills were significantly lower for the chronic lung disease group than the respiratory distress syndrome group. The children with language delays on at least one measure were significantly more likely to have cognitive, motor, or both delays. Lower maternal education was a significant predictor for language and cognitive delays, and younger GA was a significant predictor for language, motor, and cognitive delays.

Conclusion: Assessment of the preterm infant from a biosystems approach allows the speech-language pathologist to take into consideration maternal education, diagnosis at preterm birth, and GA, which were found to impact the language, motor, and cognitive outcomes of children born preterm. Our findings further reinforce the concept of the whole child in that children born preterm who display language delays should be screened for co-occurring motor and/or cognitive delays.