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

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

New study suggests that reduced insurance coverage for mental health treatment increases costs for the seriously ill

July 19, 2017
Higher out-of-pocket costs for mental health care could have the unintended consequence of increasing the use of acute and involuntary mental health care among those suffering from the most debilitating disorders, a Harvard ...

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.