Babbling, vegetative function, and language development after cricotracheal resection in aphonic children

Lauren A. Bohm, Marc E. Nelson, Lynn E. Driver, Glenn E. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the importance of prelinguistic babbling by studying patterns of speech and language development after cricotracheal resection in aphonic children. Study Design: Retrospective review of seven previously aphonic children who underwent cricotracheal resection by our pediatric thoracic airway team. The analyzed variables include age, sex, comorbidity, grade of stenosis, length of resected trachea, and communication methods. Methods: Data regarding the children's pre- and postsurgical communication methods, along with their utilization of speech therapy services, were obtained via speech-language pathology evaluations, clinical observations, and a standardized telephone survey supplemented by parental documentation. Postsurgical voice quality was assessed using the Pediatric Voice Outcomes Survey. Results: All seven subjects underwent tracheostomy prior to 2 months of age when corrected for prematurity. The subjects remained aphonic for the entire duration of cannulation. Following cricotracheal resection, they experienced an initial delay in speech acquisition. Vegetative functions were the first laryngeal sounds to emerge. Initially, the children were only able to produce these sounds reflexively, but they subsequently gained voluntary control over these laryngeal functions. All subjects underwent an identifiable stage of canonical babbling that often occurred concomitantly with vocalizations. This was followed by the emergence of true speech. Conclusions: The initial delay in speech acquisition observed following decannulation, along with the presence of a postsurgical canonical stage in all study subjects, supports the hypothesis that babbling is necessary for speech and language development. Furthermore, the presence of babbling is universally evident regardless of the age at which speech develops. Finally, there is no demonstrable correlation between preoperative sign language and rate of speech development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2494-2497
Number of pages4
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Pediatric airway
  • babbling
  • cricotracheal resection
  • speech development
  • subglottic stenosis


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