Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 November 2008
In this article, we present data from a longitudinal investigation of the development of language and communicative skills in infants suffering from focal brain injury in the pre- or perinatal period. We focus on phonological analyses of babbling and first words, and parental reports of the use of gestures for communicative purposes, word comprehension, and word production. Results indicate that all children were delayed in the number of gestures they were reported to produce, as well as in reported lexical production. Reported comprehension was also typically well below age level; however, age-appropriate comprehension was observed in one child throughout the period sampled. Phonological analyses revealed both similarities and differences between the early vocalizations of the neurologically involved children and those of the control group. Most notably, the vocalizations of the children with brain injury contained a smaller proportion of “true” consonants at the earliest session. The children who showed an increase in the proportion of consonant production by the third testing session were those who had also begun to produce words by this period. Thus, phonological and lexical developments were both observed during the period studied here, with improvement most evident in children with damage to anterior (as opposed to posterior) brain areas. Lastly, like normally developing children, children with brain injury displayed idiosyncratic patterns of consonant articulation. These tendencies were observed in all vocalizations, both babble and words, suggesting that continuity of consonant place and manner is evident even in the face of general delay in the acquisition of communicative abilities.
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