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The effects of fetal alcohol exposure on language and speech acquisition were investigated in a cohort of socioeconomically disadvantaged urban children. Language development was assessed by instruments derived from the Expressive and Receptive Scales of the Sequenced Inventory of Communication Development (SICD) at 1, 2, and 3 years, and by indices constructed from a taped speech sample at age 2 years. Three indices of maternal drinking were supplemented with birth weight and a tally of craniofacial anomalies as early indicators of fetal alcohol damage. No statistically significant relationships were found between the alcohol and language indices after statistical control for confounding variables. The anomalies tally was marginally related to reduced language scores. The statistical significance of this relationship, depended, however, on a single child with the characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome. The pattern of results suggested that the anomalies tally, and to a lesser extent birth weight, are more sensitive indicators of fetal alcohol exposure than subsequent language development.