Preemies Benefit From Adult Talk Premature babies benefit from being exposed to adult talk as early as possible, concludes a study published online Feb. 10 in Pediatrics. Researchers at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island sought to test the association of the amount of talking that a baby was exposed to at what would ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   May 01, 2014
Preemies Benefit From Adult Talk
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Development / Special Populations / Early Identification & Intervention / Healthcare Settings / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   May 01, 2014
Preemies Benefit From Adult Talk
The ASHA Leader, May 2014, Vol. 19, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB7.19052014.15
The ASHA Leader, May 2014, Vol. 19, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB7.19052014.15
Premature babies benefit from being exposed to adult talk as early as possible, concludes a study published online Feb. 10 in Pediatrics. Researchers at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island sought to test the association of the amount of talking that a baby was exposed to at what would have been 32 and 36 weeks gestation if a baby had been born full-term, using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd Edition (Bayley–III) cognitive and language scores. The researchers hypothesized that preterm infants exposed to higher word counts would have higher cognitive and language scores at 7 and 18 months corrected age.
“Our earlier study identified that extremely premature infants vocalize—make sounds—eight weeks before their mother’s due date and vocalize more when their mothers are present in the NICU than when they are cared for by NICU staff,” explains lead author Betty Vohr, director of the Women & Infants’ Neonatal Follow-Up Program and professor of pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
At 32 weeks and 36 weeks, staff recorded the NICU environment for 16 hours, noting adult word count, child vocalizations and “conversation turns”—mother’s words or infant’s vocalizations within five seconds—between mother and infant, which were analyzed by computer.
The adult word count to which infants are exposed in the NICU at 32 and 36 weeks predicted their language and cognitive scores at 18 months, according to study results. Every increase by 100 adult words per hour during the 32-week recording was associated with a two-point increase in the language score at 18 months.
The study demonstrates the “powerful impact of parents visiting and talking to their infants in the NICU on their developmental outcomes,” Vohr says. Given that very premature infants are at increased risk of language delay, the study identifies an easy-to-implement and cost-effective intervention—parents’ talking and singing to their babies—to improve outcomes.
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May 2014
Volume 19, Issue 5