Henry is a 3 year, 5 month old child who speaks African American Vernacular English. He was recently placed in a foster home so there is little background information. Henry is descriptive and communicative during play.
Henry was referred for this initial evaluation by his previous foster parents, who were Spanish-speaking and thought that Henry’s language skills were delayed. Henry now lives with a foster family that is in the process of trying to adopt him. In the family are the family’s biological eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl that the family adopted this year.
Henry has been living with this family for approximately six weeks. Prior to this time, he was living in other foster homes. The father did not have much information on the other placements, but he knew that the family Henry had just been with, who referred Henry for this speech-language evaluation, was Spanish-speaking.
The father works for the NYC Board of Education as a school aide supervisor. The mother works for the Port Authority in the accounting department. Both foster parents are high school graduates.
The foster father did not have background information on significant medical history or developmental milestones.
Henry has a weak eye, which he had one operation on to correct. Additional information was not available. When Henry inspects something visually, he turns his head to see with his right eye. When asked which eye was damaged, Henry pointed to his left eye.
Henry attends a half-day private preschool program five days a week.
Language Background and Use
Henry speaks primarily African American Vernacular English (AAVE). His foster father and brother are comfortable speaking both AAVE and Standard American English (SAE).
Henry was with a Spanish-speaking foster family for a period of time prior to this family, but it was unclear how long. When this evaluator spoke Spanish to him by saying, “Give me the toy,” Henry looked at her for a moment, as if struck by the sound and his understanding of the language, and gave her the toy. Beyond this very context-embedded routine command, Henry demonstrated no understanding of Spanish. For example, he did not respond to simple social questions in Spanish such as when asked what was his name or where is your brother. Thus, English appeared to be Henry’s language, primarily AAVE. Henry demonstrated very minimal Spanish skills.
(It is likely that in a Spanish-speaking home, Henry would appear language impaired, or at least in need of an evaluation, because he could not understand what was going on or express his needs.)
The father indicated that Henry’s hearing had been evaluated at a local hospital and found to be within normal limits.
Oral Peripheral Mechanism and Feeding
Cursory examination of the oral-motor mechanism revealed structures to be intact for speech and vegetative functions. According to the father, Henry eats well. During the evaluation, he was observed to chew a cracker and swallow appropriately.
Voice and Fluency
Parameters were appropriate for age and gender.
Articulation and Intelligibility
Assessment of articulation and phonological development revealed age-appropriate development. Some of Henry’s speech was consistent with AAVE and SAE. Intelligibility was within normal limits.
- Parent interview
- Language sample
- NYSDOH Clinical Practice Guidelines, Report of the Recommendations, Communication Disorders
- Bloom and Lahey Developmental Language Analysis*
- Clinical assessment
*This analysis has not been developed for speakers of AAVE. It is used as a general developmental description. No functional levels may be provided. See NYCDOE Test Resource Guide, Vol. I (1998).
Henry demonstrated age-appropriate understanding of directions, statements, and questions. When given a choice among three toys without visual prompts, Henry listened to the choices and made his selection appropriately. Henry also understood questions that were quite complex. For example, when Henry and his father and brother were leaving, this evaluator asked Henry, “Do you want Darius (his brother) to stay with me or do you want him to go home with you?” (He was not given any visual or gestural cues.) Henry thought for a moment and said that he wanted his brother to go home with him and his father.
Henry was also very obedient and followed most directions without needing the repetition that some typically developing three year olds need. For example, at the end of the evaluation, the father told his sons to put the toys away and Henry immediately began to put them away. His brother followed soon after.
Henry also understood age-appropriate wh-questions. For example, he understood, where, how, who, what, and when questions. (Examples, “Which eye hurts you?” “Where did you put your coat?”)
The foster father, who has had experience with a number of foster children, said that he felt Henry’s language comprehension skills were appropriate for his age.
Henry demonstrated age-appropriate language skills in all areas tested. He used language in a variety of contexts and demonstrated that the content, form, and use categories of Bloom and Lahey’s model were established appropriately for his age.
Henry’s expressive skills were consistent with the language model of his current foster family (and possibly previous foster families, except for the penultimate Spanish-speaking foster family). He spoke primarily AAVE, following the appropriate grammatical rules of AAVE, with some code-switching to SAE.
Henry’s play skills were also age-appropriate and will be described in this section because his expressive skills were so evident in play. Henry looked at a few toys before he found the one he wanted. He chose a cash register and after a brief inspection, Henry figured out how to use the cash register–which button to push to open the drawer, how to push the buttons for the number amounts, and how to pull the handle to make the bell ring. He also used the cash register functionally. He found some paper and placed it in the cash drawers, and then began to “sell” different toys to this evaluator and his father in a highly imaginative play-based activity that he created.
He described how to use the cash register to his father. “All the money got to get in there” (pointing to the cash drawer). “Here, Daddy. This is yours” (while handing his father his “change”). When asked how much a block cost, Henry replied, “This one dollar.”
Henry’s mean length of utterance was approximately 5 to 7 words. He strung sentences together to make complex communications. Other examples of his speech were, “He gonna get in the car,” “Doggie all wet,” “He gonna go open it,” “I want to go in there,” “I want to play with it,” “It’s yours,” “I want more,” “Come in here,” “How you gonna fix this?” and “Where’s Darius?” The deletion of copulas and auxiliary verbs evidenced in the foregoing examples are consistent with the grammatical rules of AAVE.
His father concurred that Henry’s language was at an age-appropriate level, compared to other 3;5 year olds and to his eight-year-old son when he was Henry’s age. The father also noted that when Henry came to their home, he spoke less than now. In the six weeks that he has been with this family, Henry has begun talking a great deal.
Based on the assessment materials administered and informed clinical opinion, Henry demonstrated age-appropriate skills in all areas of speech and language development.
No speech-language services are recommended for Henry.
The Critical Questions