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Early identification of children at risk of communication disorders: Introducing a novel battery of Dynamic Assessments for infants

Spicer-Cain, H., Camilleri, B. ORCID: 0000-0001-7145-4171, Hasson, N. & Botting, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-1082-9501 (2022). Early identification of children at risk of communication disorders: Introducing a novel battery of Dynamic Assessments for infants. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology,

Abstract

Purpose
Many children with communication disorders (CD) experience lengthy gaps between parental reporting of concerns and formal identification by professionals. This means that children with CD are denied access to early interventions that may help to support the development of communication skills and prevent possible negative sequelae associated with long-term outcomes. This may be due, in part, to the lack of assessment instruments available for children younger than three years of age. This study therefore reports on promising preliminary data from a novel set of valid dynamic assessment measures designed for infants.

Methods
We recruited 53 low-risk children and two groups of children considered to be at high risk for CD (n=17 social-high-risk and n=22 language high-risk) due to family members with language and social communication difficulties. Children were between 1 and 2 years of age and were assessed using a battery of five dynamic assessment (DA) tasks related to receptive vocabulary, motor imitation, response to joint attention, turn taking and social requesting. A set of standardised measures was also used.

Results
The DA tasks showed high levels of inter-rater reliability and relationships with age across a cross-sectional sample of children from the low-risk group. Three tasks showed moderate to strong correlations with standardised measures taken at the same age, with particularly strong correlations between the DA of receptive vocabulary and other receptive language measures. The DA of receptive vocabulary was also the only task to discriminate between the three risk groups, with the social-high-risk group scoring lower.

Conclusions
These results provide preliminary information about early DA tasks, forming the basis for further research into their utility. DA tasks might eventually facilitate the development of new methods for detecting CD in very young children, allowing earlier intervention and support.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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