BACKGROUND: Otitis media (OM) or middle ear infection is a common childhood illness and is most frequent during the crucial first 3 years of life when speech and language categories are being established, which could potentially have a long-term effect on language and literacy skill development. AIMS: The purpose of the current study was to ascertain the effects of a history of OM in early childhood on later language and literacy skill development. SAMPLE: Forty-three children from Grade 1 and Grade 2, between 6 and 8 years old with an early history of OM and 43 control children, matched for chronological age, gender and socio-economic status, participated in this study. METHODS: Children were tested on multiple measures of phonological awareness, semantic knowledge, narration and reading ability. The performance of children with and without a history of OM was compared on the different measures. RESULTS: There was a general tendency for children with a history of OM to achieve lower scores on phonological awareness skills of alliteration, rhyme and non-word reading, semantic skills of expressive vocabulary and word definitions and reading than non-OM children. CONCLUSION: These findings highlight the potential problems an early history of middle ear infection can have on school-aged children's later language and literacy development.
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