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This study proved that measures other than standardized language assessments can more accurately identify language impairment in culturally and linguistically diverse children (in this case monolingual Spanish speakers).
Background: The purpose of this study was to identify measures that could accurately discriminate predominantly Spanish-speaking language impaired children from children with normal developing language.
Methodology and Participants: It included 62 predominantly Spanish-speaking children between ages 5-7. Half of the sample included children who had been diagnosed by ASHA certified bilingual therapists as being language impaired. The other half were considered to be typically developing. All were matched for age, gender, and cognitive development. All children were randomly administered vocabulary tests, novel bound-morpheme learning tests, and language form tests. Parents of the participants were interviewed for their perceptions of their children’s language abilities and to obtain information on any family history of speech language disability.
Conclusion: Results indicated that of all the tests administered, 4 measures combined produced a sensitivity of 91.3% and specificity of 100%. These included the parent perceptions of their child’s speech abilities (this is critical question number 5), number of errors per T-unit, mean length per T-unit, and a family history of speech and language disability; therefore, highlighting the lack of diagnostic accuracy in vocabulary and language form tests. Further analysis demonstrated that sensitivity and specificity could be maintained using only the first two measures as well.
Relevance to the Field: This article provided evidence of the most diagnostically accurate measures available to clinicians when assessing predominantly Spanish-speaking children: parent perceptions and errors per T-unit. In addition, it demonstrated that these measures had much higher accuracy than conventional standardized tests. This emphasized how inappropriate the use of standardized tests with this population would be.
Restrepo, M. A. (1998). Identifiers of predominantly Spanish-speaking children with language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 1398-1411.