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March 1983

Late Language Development in a Child Unable to Recognize or Produce Speech Sounds

Author Affiliations

From the Neuropsychology Unit, Department of Clinical Neurology, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, England (Mrs Fuller and Dr Newcombe), and The Park Hospital for Children, Headington, Oxford (Dr Ounsted).

Arch Neurol. 1983;40(3):165-168. doi:10.1001/archneur.1983.04050030059011

• A boy with severe quadriplegia who neither recognized nor uttered speech sounds acquired language. Until the age of 6 years he was considered to be of severely subnormal intelligence. At age 6 years 9 months he was introduced to a manual sign system. Subsequently he was able to read, write, converse, and produce imaginative stories. Attention and memory were unimpaired and affective and social responsiveness developed appropriately. The case history demonstrates the selective effects of brain lesions that, despite extensive damage, may spare functional systems necessary for cognitive and linguistic development. It highlights the difficulty in diagnosing and evaluating the intellectual and affective potential of a multihandicapped child without functional hearing or speech and emphasizes the importance of sign language as a communication channel and prerequisite for the acquisition of reading and writing skills.

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