Research regarding expressive language performance in children born with cleft palate is sparse. The relationship between articulation/phonology and expressive language skills also needs to be further explored.
To investigate verbal competence in narrative retelling in 5-year-old children born with unilateral cleft lip and palate (UCLP) and its possible relationship with articulation/phonology at 3 and 5 years of age.
A total of 49 children, 29 with UCLP treated according to three different procedures for primary palatal surgery and a comparison group of 20 children (COMP), were included. Longitudinally recorded audio files were used for analysis. At ages 3 and 5, the children were presented with a single-word test of word naming and at age 5 also the Bus Story Test (BST). The BST was assessed according to a test manual. The single-word test was phonetically transcribed and the percentage of consonants correct adjusted for age (PCC-A) was calculated. Differences regarding the BST results within the UCLP group were analysed. The results were compared with the results of the COMP group, and also with norm values. In addition, the relationship between the results of the BST and the PCC-A scores at ages 3 and 5 years was analysed.
No significant group differences or correlations were found. However, 65.5% of the children in the UCLP group had an information score below 1 standard deviation from the norm value compared with 30% in the COMP group.
A larger proportion of children in the UCLP group than in the COMP group displayed problems with retelling but the differences between the two groups were not significant. There was no association between the BST results in the children with UCLP and previous or present articulatory/phonological competence. Since group size was small in both groups, the findings need to be verified in a larger study.