Early Speech Sound Production and Its Trajectoriesin Very Preterm Children From 2 to 4 Years of Age

Inge L. van Noort-van der Spek*, Jeroen Dudink, Irwin Reiss, Marie-Christine Franken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Very preterm (VPT) children are at risk for speech and language problems throughout school age. However, little is known about early speech sound production in these children. This study aims to present a detailed description of early speech sound production and its trajectories in VPT children from 2 to 4 years of age. In addition, this study aimed to determine if early speech sound production is associated with speech production and expressive language function at 4 years of age. Method: In 63 VPT children (< 32 weeks of gestation, 41 boys, mean gestational age = 28.8 weeks, mean birth weight = 1,135 g), speech sound production was assessed by naturalistic speech analysis at 2 years of corrected age and speech and language function by standardized tests at 4 years of age. Results: Speech sound production was found to be abnormal in 49% of the VPT children at 2 years of age and in 19% at 4 years of age. Four different speech production trajectories from 2 to 4 years of age could be identified: a normal trajectory, an abnormal trajectory, a catch-up trajectory, and a growinginto-deficit trajectory. Early speech production, defined by the number of acquired consonants at 2 years of age, significantly predicted the word production score at 4 years of age and the sentence production score at 4 years of age. Conclusions: Compared to the general population, an alarmingly high proportion of VPT children showed speech production problems at 2 years of age. About half of these children showed persistent speech problems at 4 years of age. Moreover, these problems were associated with expressive language problems at the age of 4 years. Supplemental Material: https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.19310822.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1294-1310
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number4
Early online date9 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2022

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Copyright © 2022 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

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