Both clinical and theoretical assumptions exist across disciplines which suggest that early feeding skills may be precursors to later speech and language skills. An additional question that has remained unclear is whether an altered trajectory of early feeding and oral motor skills development sets an infant on a path for altered or disordered speech and language development. The literature is also unclear in determining if there is a link between early feeding communicative behaviors and later speech and language skills. In order to better understand these relationships the current study examined infant communication during feeding and nonfeeding interactions and oral-motor feeding skills at 6 months adjusted age and later language scores at 2 years of age in 42 premature African American infants. In addition, data for variables that put premature infants "at risk" for developmental delays as documented prior to discharge, as well as maternal responsiveness at 6 months adjusted age were explored for relationships between these "at risk" variables and later infant language scores.
The results of the study revealed a significant predictive relationship between mealtime communication "red flags" at 6 months adjusted age and language scores on the Preschool Language Scale-4 (Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 2002) at 2 years of age. Analyses also identified a significant predictive relationship between mothers' global level of responsiveness during feeding and nonfeeding interactions and infant language scores at 2 years of age. Additionally, variables that put premature infants "at risk" for developmental delays as documented prior to hospital discharge were also found to be predictive of later language scores. These findings emphasize the potential importance of observing mealtime communication during interactions between African American premature infants and their caregivers. In addition, these findings document the need for further research on the oral-motor feeding problems that may be unique to formerly premature infants. Further, the current investigation reveals the value in examining premature infants' early communication development within the context of their family systems and interactions with caregivers.
|Commitee:||Humphry, Ruth, McLean, Lee, Thoyre, Suzanne, Watson, Linda|
|School:||The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|Department:||Speech & Hearing Sciences: Doctoral|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||DAI-B 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Communication, Feeding, Language, Oral-motor, Premature infants, Speech|
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