Background: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a highly prevalent spectrum of patterns of congenital defects resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol. Approximately 90% of the cases involve speech impairment. Yet, to date, no detailed symptom profiles nor dedicated treatment plans are available for this population.
Purpose: This study set out to chart the speech and speech motor characteristics in boys with FASD to profile the concomitant speech impairment and identify possible underlying mechanisms.
Method: Ten boys with FASD (4.5-10.3 years old) and 26 typically developing children (4.1-8.7 years old; 14 boys, 12 girls) participated in the study. Speech production and perception, and oral motor data were collected by standardized tests.
Results: The boys with FASD showed reduced scores on all tasks as well as a deviant pattern of correlations between production and perception tasks and intelligibility compared with the typically developing children. Speech motor profiles showed specific problems with nonword repetition and tongue control.
Conclusions: Findings indicate that the speech impairment in boys with FASD results from a combination of deficits in multiple subsystems and should be approached as a disorder rather than a developmental delay. The results suggest that reduced speech motor planning/programming, auditory discrimination, and oral motor abilities should be considered in long-term, individually tailored treatment.