Objective. To compare a group of children with cleft lip and palate (CLP) with a group of noncleft, matched control children on measures of congnitive development, speech and language abilities, and audiologic status at 12 and 24 months of age.

Design. Using a prospective, longitudinal study design, a group of 16 children with CLP and a group of 16 noncleft control children matched for race, sex, birth order, and socioeconomic status were compared using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, the Receptive-Expressive Emergent Language Scale, the Sequenced Inventory of Communication Development—Revised (SICD-R), the Preschool Language Scale—Revised (PLSR), the mean length of utterance, audiometric evaluation, and impedance screening at 12 and 24 months of age. All were free of other congenital abnormalities or known causes of neurodevelopmental dysfunction.

Results. Children with CLP had lower mental developmental index (MDI) and psychomotor developmental index scores than control children. They had lower language comprehension scores on the SICD-R and PLS-R and lower expressive language scores on the Receptive-Expressive Emergent Language Scale, SICD-R, and PLS-R than control children. The group with CLP had a significantly higher number of children with abnormal tympanogram results or ventilation tubes at 12 and 24 months. There was a positive correlation between language test scores at 24 months and MDI scores at 24 months (r = .73 to .85). Seventy-five percent of children with CLP who had hearing loss at 12 months had MDI scores more than 1 SD below the mean versus 0% of children with normal hearing. There was a relationship between hearing status at 12 months and comprehension and expressive language scores at 24 months.

Conclusions. Children with CLP had significantly lower scores on tests of cognition, comprehension, and expressive language abilities than matched control children at 12 and 24 months of age. They also had a higher frequency of middle-ear disease and ventilation tubes than control children, although no significant difference in hearing sensitivity was found between groups. Early identification and treatment of these delays may reduce subsequent verbal deficits, hearing loss, and academic difficulties.

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