My colleague and I recently conducted speech and language screeners for all the Kindergarten students at a local school. Language screeners are often confused with standardised language assessment so I thought I would take the time to explain what each consists of and how they differ.
Language is a broad area that includes a number of skills such as understanding of basic and complex concepts, following instructions, comprehension of verbal passages as well as production of a variety of words in a range of grammatically and sequentially correct sentence and story structures. For this reason it can take a couple of visits to gain a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s language skills. Screeners are sometimes use as a substitute when time does not allow for a comprehensive assessment however it does not replace a comprehensive assessment.
Below I have listed some of the key differences between a language screener such as the Renfrew Action Picture Test and a comprehensive language assessment such as the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundimantals-4.
Language Screener: (e.g. Renfrew Action Picture Test-RAPT)
- Takes approximately 15-30 minutes to complete
- Looks at the major components of language, specifically expressive and receptive language skills such as understanding who, what, when, where and why questions, use of different word types and structures and sentence types and structures
- The results give an indication as to whether the individual needs a standardised assessment or therapy
Comprehensive Language Assessment: (e.g.Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-CELF-4)
- Takes approximately 1-2 hours to complete
- Looks at all areas of language including Expressive language, Receptive Language, Language structure, Language Content and a Working Memory component for Language
- The assessment is divided into a number of subtests to evaluate each of the above areas depending on the individual’s age. Here is a list of the subtests in the CELF-4 and what they assess with examples:
- Concepts & Following Directions/Semantic Relationships (Following multiple step instructions and understanding concepts e.g. ‘before’ and ‘after’)
- Sentence Structure (Understanding different sentence types e.g. question vs statement)
- Expressive Vocabulary/Word Definitions (Understanding and use of a range of word types e.g. nouns and verbs)
- Formulated sentences/Sentence Assembly (Use of word components in different sentence structures e.g. use of conjunction ‘and’)
- Word Structure/Recalling sentences (Use of sentence structure and grammar e.g. past vs. present tense)
- Word Classes (Grouping words into categories and explaining their relationship e.g. car & truck=transport items)
- Understanding Spoken Paragraphs (inferencing skills and auditory memory for main idea and minor details)
- The results indicate a standardised percentile ranking compared to others in the same age group and the area of language the person is having difficulty with, which is often targeted directly in therapy
The most important take home message is that a screener can gain a broad idea of person’s language skills however if the person is experiencing more complex language difficulties or if a report is needed for school, a comprehensive standardised assessment is required. The CELF-4 outlined above is the assessment required by the Board of Studies when applying for funding or additional aid at school.
For more information on this topic or any speech related fields, contact the ENT Clinic on 1300 123 368 and make an appointment with our speech pathologists Ashleigh Fattah.