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Background: The purpose of this article was to determine whether dynamic assessment (DA) of word learning was accurate in identifying the presence of language impairment (LI) in preschool-age bilingual children. Bilingual children are often misidentified as language impaired under current assessment practices due to flawed assessment procedures.

Hypotheses: The researchers hypothesized that word learning skills assessed based on word
production, word identification, and modifiability would classify participants with and without PLI with high accuracy.

Methodology and Participants: Twenty-eight 4 and 5-year-old predominantly Spanish-speaking children of low socioeconomic status (SES) were included in the study. Fifteen of the participants were considered typically developing (TD) while eighteen were language impaired. All subjects participated in a 30- to 40- minute word learning session and skills were evaluated, then taught novel words and evaluated again. There were three phases of teaching, providing 9 exposures, 18 exposures, and 27 exposures to novel words.

Conclusion: Results revealed that TD children learned the new words significantly more quickly than did their LI peers with the strongest difference being after the first phase. The authors combined the results from DA and the Learning Strategies Checklist to achieve the highest accuracy in distinguishing TD from LI children. This produced a sensitivity of 77% and specificity of 80%. Authors acknowledged the accuracy was not as high as would be desired, but that given the accuracy of other assessment measures currently available for bilingual children and those from low SES and the short amount of time needed to perform the task, it is a clinically efficient screening tool in identifying preschool-aged bilingual children who may need a more thorough evaluation.

Relevance to Field: There are currently no commercially available standardized/norm-referenced tests that are considered valid, reliable, or free of bias for bilingual children, as is mandated by IDEA 2004. The current assessment process is flawed due to a reliance on these invalid and unreliable tests (Hehir, 2005). Although 80% diagnostic accuracy just reaches the minimum acceptable level of accuracy established by Vance & Plante (1994), this study demonstrated that novel word learning tasks could be an important part to the bilingual clinician’s repertoire. No single assessment should be used in determining disability, so this task along with other dynamic assessment procedures, parent interviews, language sampling, and clinical judgments should be combined in the assessment process in order to make an appropriate diagnosis of language impairment. This article explains that a combination of novel word learning and the Learning Strategies Checklist (Lidz, 1991; Pena, 1993) provided the most accurate results for these bilingual preschool age children.

Kapantzoglou, M., Restrepo, M. A., & Thompson, M. S. (2012). Dynamic assessment of word learning skills: Identifying language impairment in bilingual children. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 43, 81-96.