This research was conducted to describe the clinical characteristics of children with a history of opioid exposure as perceived by the speech-language pathologists (SLPs) treating them.


Three focus groups were conducted. Participants consisted of 20 SLPs working in the schools in West Virginia who had experienced working with children with a confirmed or suspected history of opioid exposure. A thematic, qualitative analysis was conducted, whereby focus group sessions were transcribed verbatim and information was coded, organized into themes, and interpreted.


Themes of perceived clinical characteristics (speech, language, executive function, and other developmental delays) are reported to address the research question. Additionally, themes derived from the data regarding perceived significant differentiators (greater severity/needs, inconsistent performance, and atypical manifestation) and perceived confounding characteristics (safety and well-being, aspects of home environment, and effects on school environment) that are often reported in children with a history or suspected history of opioid exposure are presented.


Perceived clinical characteristics of this population, both intrinsic and situational, highlight the complex profile of this population and demonstrate the importance of considering each child from a multidimensional perspective. Additional research is needed to represent the profile of these children more completely and to identify successful supports that will improve their speech and language outcomes, educational achievement, and their overall quality of life.


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