Speech & language of children with heart disease

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Learn about the impact that congenital heart disease may have on speech and language.

Key points

  • Speech therapy can help children with complex congenital heart disease who display linguistic delays or deficits.

This page explains how congenital heart disease affects a child's linguistic development.

Effects of CHDs on speech and language

Many children with complex CHD have delays or deficits in linguistic skills. Children with complex CHD may obtain scores within the broad average range on language tests, but when compared to their peers, on average they will do more poorly. Children with transposition of the great arteries or hypoplastic left heart syndrome are known to have a higher likelihood of delays or deficits in speech. One study found that 1 in 4 children with transposition of the great arteries had speech abnormalities, including reduced expressive language (oral expression abilities) and receptive language (ability to understand communication) skills. Another study found that children with transposition of the great arteries in combination with tiny ventricle septal defects may report a delay of 2 to 4 months in communication development.

What can be done about speech problems

Speech therapy, a service provided by speech-language pathologists, can help. Most school boards and many hospitals have these professionals on staff. Speech-language pathology services are also available from professionals in the community, and at some community health centres.

Last updated: December 14th 2009