Objective: To test the hypothesis that children with orofacial clefts score lower than controls on measures of language and reading and to examine predictors of these outcomes.
Design: Longitudinal study tracking the development of children with and without orofacial clefts from infancy through age 7 years.
Subjects: Children with isolated cleft lip and palate (n = 29) and cleft palate only (n = 28) were recruited from the craniofacial program in an urban medical center. Seventy-seven demographically similar, unaffected controls were recruited via advertisements placed in area pediatric clinics and community centers.
Measures: Infant measures assessed child development and mother-child interactions during feeding and teaching tasks. At ages 5 and 7 years, measures of language functioning and academic achievement were completed along with an interview to collect school placement data and information on speech services received.
Results: There were no significant group differences in language at ages 5 and 7 years. Children with clefts scored significantly higher than controls on measures of early reading at age 7 years. Outcomes were predicted by demographic factors, the quality of mother-child interactions during teaching and feeding tasks, and cognitive development scores at age 24 months.
Conclusions: Findings do not support the hypothesis that children with clefts score lower than controls on neurocognitive and academic achievement measures. Predictive analyses revealed several dimensions that may be used in clinical practice to identify children at risk for learning and developmental concerns.