The influence of prematurity on the development of phonological skills

ABSTRACT Purpose: to check the use of phonological processes in preterm infants. Methods: phonological evaluation was performed through the ABFW Child Language Test in 40 children, aged two to four years, i.e., 20 preterm and 20 full-term children, matched according to age, gender and socioeconomic level. Preterm children were evaluated at the State Center for Prevention and Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities - CEPRED; full-term children were selected and evaluated in a municipal nursery in the city of Salvador, BA, Brazil. The pertinent statistical tests were applied adopting the level of significance lower than 0.05%. Results: in the phonology test, the number of productive phonological processes not expected for the chronological age was statistically significant in the preterm group, especially syllable reduction, consonantal harmony, velar backing and liquid reduction. The high prevalence of cluster reduction and final consonant deletion, though still compatible with chronological age, shows the need to follow up the language acquisition of these children, after the age of four. Conclusion: the results evidenced the difficulty found by preterm infants in the development of phonological skills, emphasizing the importance of early diagnosis and speech-language monitoring in language acquisition.