New toolkit will help identify early language issues

June 14, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- A new assessment tool will help prevent multilingual children being wrongly diagnosed with speech and language problems.

Dr. Carolyn Letts, Newcastle University, has just finished working on an update of the Reynell Development Language Scales (NRDLS), widely used by speech and language therapists to identify problems in children from three to seven-and-a-half-years-old.

The new edition contains a Multilingual Toolkit, an additional handbook that offers on how to adapt and use NRDLS for children whose first language is not English.

“Many children referred to speech and language therapists in the UK have English as an additional language and a diversity of first languages,” explained Dr. Letts, who carried out the review with Dr. Indra Sinka. “This can lead to both under and over referral as it can be difficult to identify and diagnose impairment in these cases. Often the child’s characteristics are simply features of second language acquisition rather than other underlying problems.”

The authors devised the toolkit after discovering that some therapists had been literally translating the original material, which does not take into account the complexity of the language and could easily lead to false readings.

As in previous editions, there are two scales: one explores aspects of the child’s understanding of selected vocabulary items and grammar (Comprehension Scale); and the other examines how the child uses the language (Production Scale).

It was standardised on 1,266 children in the UK aged between two and seven-and-a-half years-old and the revisions are based on advances in language acquisition and indicators of language impairment, along with user feedback.

“If a child is not speaking or their language seems behind it suggests they may need additional help, and this is where the test comes in,” said Dr. Letts, who is speaking about her latest research at the Child Language Seminar in Newcastle this week (13/14 June 2011).

“With increasing concerns about children starting – or indeed, finishing – school with difficulties, it’s vital that any issues are identified early on and suitable interventions put in place as soon as possible.”

The play-based format of NRDLS has been retained, with engaging stimulus material that includes a trio of toys – a monkey, teddy and rabbit – that can ‘direct’ as they carry out the various tasks. The amount of material in the pack has been more than halved to make assessment quicker and more straightforward, so most assessments should now take approximately 45 minutes.

Dr. Letts, who co-authored the new edition with Professor Edwards (University of Reading) and Dr Sinka (Open University), was also involved in the previous revision 14 years ago.

Explore further: 'Motherese' important for children's language development

Related Stories

'Motherese' important for children's language development

May 6, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Talking to children has always been fundamental to language development, but new research reveals that the way we talk to children is key to building their ability to understand and create sentences of ...

Recommended for you

Half of people believe fake facts

December 7, 2016

Many people are prone to 'remembering' events that never happened, according to new research by the University of Warwick.

Helping children achieve more in school

December 7, 2016

Not all children do well in school, despite being intellectually capable. Whilst parental relationships, motivation and self-concept all have a role to play, a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology ...

MRI scans detect 'brain rust' in schizophrenia

December 7, 2016

A damaging chemical imbalance in the brain may contribute to schizophrenia, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

Want to give a good gift? Think past the 'big reveal'

December 6, 2016

Gift givers often make critical errors in gift selection during the holiday season, according to a new research article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.