Intelligibility of single words – University of Copenhagen

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Intelligibility of single words in 3-year-old children with and without cleft palate

Researchers: Mads Poulsen and Elisabeth Willadsen

In a previous study (Willadsen under review), cleft palate children with hard palate closure at 12 months of age showed a more normal phonological development at 36 months of age than children with an unrepaired hard palate. This finding was based on narrow transcription of word initial target consonants obtained from a simple naming test. To evaluate the validity of this finding, this recent study investigated how well the children's target words were understood by 84 naive listeners.

Participants were twenty-eight children with cleft palate who had received velum closure at four months of age, and hard palate closure cleft at either 12 months (EarlyHPR (hard palate repaired)) or 36 months (LateHPU (hard palate unrepaired)) by random assignment, 14 in each of these groups. In addition, fourteen age-matched control children were included in the study.

Video recordings of the children naming target words were shown to 84 naive listeners between 15 and 24 years of age, who were asked to type the word they heard. Every word was presented twice and every target word production was evaluated by four different listeners.

Results showed that naive listeners most easily understood control children followed by children in the EarlyHPR group, whereas children in the LateHPU group were most difficult for the naive listeners to understand. The error of retraction/backing of alveolar target consonants to velar place of articulation occurred frequently and most often in the LateHPU group. It was found to affect intelligibility substantially.

Willadsen & Poulsen (2012). Influence of timing of hard palate repair in a two-stage procedure on early language development in Danish cleft palate children.

Elisabeth Willadsen & Mads Poulsen (2012): A restricted test of single word intelligibility in 3-year-old children with and without cleft palate