Assessing language skills in young children

Language and communication skills are essential to children’s ability to engage in social relationships and access learning experiences. Children with autism/asperger’s syndrome as well as Dyslexia may have difficulties with language development. Hence, it is a skill that is often an important part of assessments by Educational Psychologists in Hong Kong in order to determine the developmental progress of a child.

 

In a recent article in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health. It is found that current screening measures do not meet psychometric pre-requisites (psychometrics = design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and personality traits)  to identify language problems. A range of articles is reviewed to identify issues which practitioners and researchers should consider when assessing language skills. There are significant challenges in the interpretation of language assessments, where socioeconomic status, language status and dialect, hearing impairment and test characteristics impact results. The range of articles shows that psychometrically sound assessments of language are an essential component of developing effective and efficient interventions. Regular monitoring of language is preferable, as one- off screening has limited power to predict later performance because children’s developmental paths vary. Hence, a combination of language performance measures is a better indicator of language problems and disorders than single measures of component skills.

 

To conclude, the language system is complex, it composed of a number of subcomponents and the language paths of preschool children vary substantially. As such, the development of reliable and valid assessments is challenging, but they are of central importance for studying typical and atypical development. Research studies continue to enhance our understanding of the language development process and aid our identification of children who experience persistent language disorders and the factors that are associated with these. The assessment of narrative skills and dynamic assessment were highlighted as new developments. The current review has aimed to provide the necessary information to make informed decisions about assessing the language competencies of preschool children.