Linguistic skills at 6 1/2 y of age, corrected for gestational age at birth, were examined in a cohort of 230 children who had required neonatal intensive care (NIC) in 1986-89, and in 71 fullterm neonatally healthy control children (C) matched to the NIC children born at < 32 gestational weeks. Ten linguistic areas were assessed. The 10th percentile score of the controls was identified in each linguistic area and used for comparisons. In 77.5% of the controls and 63.5% of the NIC children, no score was lower than the 10th percentile score of the controls. Scores lower than the 10th percentile score were more common in NIC children born at term or at 23-31 wk, and within this group of children those born at 23-27 wk, than in controls.
Conclusion: In preterm children of < 32 wk the results in the linguistic areas of imitation of articulatory positions, comprehension of logical grammatical constructions, phonemes and word fluency differed from those of the matched controls, and in NIC children born at > or = 32 weeks the results for imitation of articulatory positions, articulatory patterns and sentences, auditory discrimination and word fluency were poorer than those of the controls.