Measurement Issues: Assessing language skills in young children

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Abstract

Background:

Language and communication skills are central to children's ability to engage in social relationships and access learning experiences. This paper identifies issues which practitioners and researchers should consider when assessing language skills. A range of current language assessments is reviewed.

Key findings:

Current screening measures do not meet psychometric prerequisites to identify language problems. There are significant challenges in the interpretation of language assessments, where socioeconomic status, language status and dialect, hearing impairment and test characteristics impact results.

Conclusions:

Psychometrically sound assessments of language are an essential component of developing effective and efficient interventions. The language trajectories of preschool children vary substantially; current screening measures have significant limitations. Composite measures of language performance are better indicators of language problems and disorders than single measures of component skills.

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