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Oral Motor and Gesture Abilities Independently Associated With Preschool Language Skill: Longitudinal and Concurrent Relationships at 21 Months and 3-4 Years

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/06/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number6
Volume64
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)1944-1963
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date12/05/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Purpose Early motor abilities (gesture, oral motor, and gross/fine skills) are related to language abilities, and this is not due to an association with cognitive or symbolic abilities: Oral motor skills are uniquely associated with language abilities at 21 months of age. It is important to determine whether this motor-language relationship continues beyond the earliest stage of language development to understand language acquisition better and better predict which children may have lasting language difficulties. Method In this longitudinal study, we assessed language comprehension and production, oral motor skill, gross/fine motor skill, and meaningless manual gesture at ages 3 years (N = 89) and 4 years (N = 71), comparing the contribution of motor skill and earlier (at 21 months of age) language ability. We also examined covariates: nonverbal cognitive ability, socioeconomic status, and stimulation in the home as measured on the Home Screening Questionnaire. Results Motor abilities continue to have a significant relationship with language abilities independent of other factors in the preschool years. Meaningless manual gesture ability, gross/fine motor skill, and oral motor skill were still associated with language skill at 3 years of age; these relationships are not explained by the contribution of cognitive abilities or earlier language abilities. Conclusions Relationships between early motor skill and language development persist into preschool years and are not explained by other cognitive or home factors, nor by a relationship with earlier language ability. This finding should lead to a better understanding of the origins of language abilities.