Callier Study Examines Effects of Preterm Birth

A Callier Center researcher hopes a study she is conducting will shed light on how preterm birth could affect speech and language development in young children.

Dr. Debra G. Weinberger, medical director at Callier and the study’s principal investigator, thinks children born prematurely and with lower birth weights are at an increased risk of having speech and language problems.

“Preterm birth, defined as a birth before 37 weeks gestation, is a growing problem in the U.S.,” Weinberger said.  “As a result of more children being born prematurely and the survival rate increasing, we are seeing a lot of these children with learning differences that may impact their future development.”

Weinberger’s study, “Speech and language performance: A pilot study of 3-year old-children born preterm,” is a collaboration between the Callier Center for Communication Disorders, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

Weinberger is an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and a clinical research scholar at UT Southwestern, as well as a pediatric otolaryngologist at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

She and her research mentors, Dr. Emily Tobey, clinical professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, and Dr. Thomas Campbell, executive director of the Callier Center, hypothesize that children born prematurely and with lower birth weights will have more difficulty with their speech and language development.

To test the hypothesis, Weinberger is recruiting 3-year-old children who were born prematurely and their parents to participate in a single study visit that takes place at the Callier Center’s Dallas location. The study visit includes a hearing screening, developmental screening, play session with the parent and a parent questionnaire.

Weinberger will compare the results from the study visits with a database of full-term 3-year-olds.

“Although this is a pilot study, we hope our findings will enable us to conduct a much larger study that will look at more risk factors in speech and language development,” said Weinberger. “We eventually hope to identify risk factors for children born prematurely who will have difficulty with speech and language development in order to focus treatment on those children.”

Parents interested in participating in the study can contact Barbara Staves at 214-648-9793. A language screening questionnaire will be conducted over the phone to determine whether the child is eligible.

Study participants are compensated for their time. The parents also receive a summary of the results, including any potential concerns, and a list of appropriate service providers for any follow-up visits.

The study is funded by a $25,000 pilot grant award from the North and Central Texas Clinical and Translational Science Initiative, based at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Debra   Weinberger hopes her findings will lead to a much larger study that will look at more risk factors.

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