Longitudinal study of the development of obstruent correctness from ages 3 to 5 years in 108 Danish children with unilateral cleft lip and palate: a sub‐study within a multicentre randomized controlled trial

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Background Speech‐sound development in preschoolers with unilateral cleft lip and palate (UCLP) as a group is delayed/disordered, and obstruents comprise the most vulnerable sound class. Aims To evaluate the development of obstruent correctness (PCC‐obs) and error types (cleft speech characteristics (CSCs) and developmental speech characteristics (DSCs)) from ages 3–5 and to investigate possible predictors (error types, velopharyngeal dysfunction (VPD) and gender) of PCC‐obs at age 5 in two groups of children with UCLP. Methods & Procedures Subgroup analysis was conducted within a multicentre randomized controlled trial (RCT) of primary surgery (Scandcleft Project). A total of 125 Danish children with UCLP received lip and soft palate repair around 4 months of age and early hard palate closure at 12 months (EHPC group) or late hard palate closure at 36 months (LHPC group). Audio and video recordings of a naming test were available for 108 children at ages 3 and 5, and recordings were transcribed phonetically by blinded raters. Outcomes & Results PCC‐obs scores increased significantly from ages 3–5 in both groups, but with small effect sizes in the EHPC group that had higher scores at age 3 than the LHPC group. DSCs decreased in both groups whereas CSCs only decreased in the LHPC group that had more CSCs at age 3 than the EHPC group. The frequency of CSCs at age 3 was a significant predictor of PCC‐obs scores at age 5 in both groups. DSCs significantly improved the logistic regression model in the EHPC group, whereas VPD and gender did not significantly improve the model in either group. Conclusions & Implications Although PCC‐obs developed significantly from ages 3 to 5, children with UCLP as a group did not catch up to typically developing Danish children at age 5. Furthermore, the LHPC group at age 5 did not reach the 3‐year level of the EHPC group, which means that delaying hard palate closure until age 3 is detrimental to obstruent development. Both CSCs and DSCs at age 3 were important predictors of PCC‐obs at age 5 and should be considered when determining need for intervention.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Pages (from-to)121-135
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 230478500