Dramatic differences in tests assessing preschoolers’ language skills

Posted on July 3, 2019

Preschool is a crucial time for language development. Children born preterm who display deficits in language skills are unlikely to catch up with their full-term peers. Hence, it important to accurately assess their language skills to determine if they require early intervention.

A possible method of evaluating language skills is using standardized assessments or tests. Another way to analyse language skills is with language sample analysis – this provides a great deal of information on a child’s language abilities and overall conversational skills. Despite this test’s diagnostic utility, very few studies have analysed language sample analyses in conjunction with the standardised assessment outcomes in children born preterm.

Researchers investigated the impact of preterm birth on language outcomes in pre-schoolers born preterm and full term, using both standardised assessment and language sample analysis. Results showed that the children born preterm performed more poorly when language skill was measured via language sample analysis than standardised assessment.

There were statistically significant group differences for all language skill measures obtained, instead they found differences for one measure of language skills between the two groups of children obtained from the standardised assessments.

The researchers also did not find any differences in the two groups of children for nonverbal factors such as ADHD and nonverbal intelligence in either the standardised assessments or the language sample analyses. In fact, none of the non-linguistic skills accounted for a significant amount of the observed group differences on the language sample variables.

Researchers further found that preterm children exhibit substantial grammatical difficulties – these children showing language deficits in discourse level semantic and grammatical skills that were not evident in discourse-level semantic and grammatical skills that were not evident from standardised assessment, which the researchers had not expected to find.

Findings from this study provides important clinical implications for practitioners who work with preterm children. Deficits in conversational skills may be difficult to assess through the traditional use of standardised assessments, which underscores the importance of using both language sample analysis and standardised assessment to measure children’s expressive language.

Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Science Daily

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