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Purpose Children with cerebral palsy (CP) are at risk for significant communication problems. Reduced speech intelligibility is common, even for those who do not have speech motor deficits. Development of intelligibility has not been comprehensively quantified in children with CP; as a result, we are currently unable to predict later speech outcomes. Such information would advance treatment decision making. We sought to examine growth in speech intelligibility among children with CP using a prospective longitudinal design, with a focus on age of crossing target intelligibility thresholds, age of greatest intelligibility growth, and how well intelligibility at 36 months predicted intelligibility at 96 months. Method Sixty-nine children with CP were followed longitudinally between 24 and 96 months of age. A total of 566 time points were examined across children ( M = 8.2 time points per child, SD = 2.6). We fitted a nonlinear random effects model for longitudinal observations and then used the fitted model trajectories to generate descriptive analyses of growth. We used results of the model to generate a set of simulations, which we analyzed to determine how well 36-month intelligibility data predicted 96-month data. Results Half of children crossed 25% and 50% intelligibility thresholds at 36 and 49 months of age, respectively. Slightly more than half of children did not reach 75% intelligibility by 96 months of age. Age of crossing 25%, 50%, and 75% intelligibility thresholds was highly negatively correlated with intelligibly at 96 months. Children had the steepest intelligibility growth at 36 months, followed by 48 and 60 months. Intelligibility at 36 months was highly predictive of intelligibility at 96 months. Conclusions The developmental window from 3 to 5 years constitutes a time of rapid growth in speech intelligibility in children with CP. Children who cross intelligibility thresholds of 25%, 50%, and 75% at earlier ages have better outcomes when they are older; early performance is highly predictive of later speech intelligibility outcomes. Children with CP as a group have delayed speech intelligibility development but are still growing through 96 months of age.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR
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