Article  |   October 2009
Epidemiology of Speech and Language Impairment in a Nationally Representative Sample of 4- to 5-Year-Old Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sharynne McLeod
    Charles Sturt University, Australia
  • Linda J. Harrison
    Charles Sturt University, Australia
  • Contact author: Sharynne McLeod, School of Teacher Education, Charles Sturt University, Panorama Avenue, Bathurst, New South Wales 2795, Australia. E-mail: smcleod@csu.edu.au.
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Language Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language
Article   |   October 2009
Epidemiology of Speech and Language Impairment in a Nationally Representative Sample of 4- to 5-Year-Old Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2009, Vol. 52, 1213-1229. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0085)
History: Received April 24, 2008 , Revised October 21, 2008 , Accepted February 20, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2009, Vol. 52, 1213-1229. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0085)
History: Received April 24, 2008; Revised October 21, 2008; Accepted February 20, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 18

Purpose: To draw on multiple sources of information to determine prevalence of speech and language impairment in young Australian children.

Method: Information about 4,983 children (ages 4–5 years) from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2007) was obtained via parent interviews and questionnaires, teacher questionnaires, and direct assessment. Data were statistically weighted to the Australian population of 253,202 children in the target age group.

Results: Parent-reported prevalence: 25.2% had concerns about how their child talked and made speech sounds (11.8% “concerned”; 13.4% “a little concerned”), and 9.5% had concerns about how their child understood language (4.4% “concerned”; 5.1% “a little concerned”). Parents who reported concerns identified “speech not clear to others” as the most frequent area of difficulty (12.0%). Teacher-reported prevalence: 22.3% of children were considered to be less competent than others in their expressive language ability (6.7% “much less competent”; 15.6% “less competent”); 16.9% were considered to be less competent than others in their receptive language ability (4.0% “much less competent”; 12.9% “less competent”). The match between parent and teacher identification was higher for expressive speech and language concern than for receptive language. Direct assessment: 13.0% of children were 1–2 SDs below the mean on the Adapted Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test–III (S. Rothman, 2003), and a further 1.7% were > 2 SDs below the mean. Parent and teacher reports were significantly correlated with scores obtained via direct assessment. Period prevalence: Parents and teachers reported that 14.5% of children had accessed speech-language pathologist (SLP) services. 2.2% indicated that they needed but could not access an SLP.

Conclusion: Multiple indicators of speech and language impairment in diverse contexts confirmed the high prevalence of this condition in early childhood and a concomitant need for SLP services.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by the following sources: Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP0773978 and the Charles Sturt University Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education. An earlier version of a portion of this article was presented at the 2007 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. We would like to acknowledge the contribution of the Australian Rotary Health Fund and Foundation for Children Research Grant and the members of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) Research Consortium: John Ainley, Donna Berthelsen, Michael Bittman, Linda Harrison, Jan Nicholson, Bryan Rodgers, Ann Sanson, Michael Sawyer, Sven Silburn, Lyndall Strazdins, Judy Ungerer, Graham Vimpani, Melissa Wake, and Stephen Zubrick.
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