Does the language of children born less than 28-weeks gestation differ from language-age matched pairs?
Thesis DisciplineSpeech and Language Therapy
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Speech and Language Therapy
In New Zealand, approximately 10% of births are considered premature, that is less than 37 weeks gestation. With advances in medical technology, young infants are surviving gestation periods as few as 23 weeks. It is expected that many of these severely premature infants will demonstrate some problem in their academic, or cognitive function including language functioning. It is agreed that children who are born severely premature often present with language problems, the nature of the difficulties are not clear. Research examining language abilities that involve cognitive functions such as inference generation have demonstrated that children born prematurely exhibit difficulties with phonologic short-term memory and executive function. Language tasks such as inference understanding require children to integrate real-world knowledge with the linguistic information to generate and produce language that is more complex. The aim of this study was to discover if the language of children born severely premature differs from that of language-age matched peers. This study examined high-level language abilities of school-age children born severely prematurely, specifically, language tasks that involved executive functions including working memory, story inferencing, and recognising absurdities. Six children who were born less than 28 weeks gestation participated in this study. Their results on the above measures were compared to a language-aged matched comparison group, determined by performance on a standardised test. It was hypothesised that the children born severely premature would not differ from their language-age matched peers on measures of general language ability but differences would exist on measures of language processing and inferencing. The findings overall showed little difference between the preterm group and their language-age matched peers on measures except for the measure of chronological age. Although no group difference was found for the measure of working memory, a larger variance on this measure was observed in the preterm group.