Identifying risk for language impairment in children from linguistically diverse low-income schools

<p><i>Purpose</i>: To improve screening procedures for children in a linguistically diverse context, we combined tasks known to reveal grammatical deficits in children with language impairment (LI) with training to facilitate performance on a verb elicitation task.</p> <p><i>Method</i>: Sixty-four first grade children participated. The objective grammatical measures included elicitation of 12 past tense regular verbs preceded by a teaching phase (teach-test), the sentence recall (SR) subtest of the Clinical evaluation of language fundamentals (CELF-4), and a tally of all conjugated verbs from a narrative retell task. Given the widespread reliance on teacher observation for the referral of children suspected of having LI, we compared our results to the spoken language portion of the CELF-4 teacher observational rating scale (ORS).</p> <p><i>Result</i>: Using teacher observation as a reference for comparison, the past tense elicitation task and the SR task yielded strong discriminating power, but the verb tally was relatively weak. However, combining the three tasks yielded the highest levels of sensitivity (75%) and specificity (92%) than any single measure on its own.</p> <p><i>Conclusion</i>: This study contributes to alternative assessment practices by highlighting the potential utility of adding a teaching component prior to administering informal grammatical probes.</p>