The Use of Spontaneous Language Measures as Criteria for Identifying Children With Specific Language Impairment: An Attempt to Reconcile Clinical and Research Incongruence Criteria for identification of children as specifically language impaired (SLI) vary greatly among clinicians and researchers. Standardized psychometric discrepancy criteria are more restrictive and perhaps less sensitive to language impairment than is clinical judgment based on a child’s language performance in naturalistic contexts. This paper examines (a) differences in groups ... Research Article
Research Article  |   June 01, 1996
The Use of Spontaneous Language Measures as Criteria for Identifying Children With Specific Language Impairment: An Attempt to Reconcile Clinical and Research Incongruence
 
Author Notes
  • Contact author: Michelle Dunn, PhD, Department of Neurology, Rose F. Kennedy Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1410 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, NY 10461.
    Contact author: Michelle Dunn, PhD, Department of Neurology, Rose F. Kennedy Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1410 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, NY 10461.×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   June 01, 1996
The Use of Spontaneous Language Measures as Criteria for Identifying Children With Specific Language Impairment: An Attempt to Reconcile Clinical and Research Incongruence
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 1996, Vol. 39, 643-654. doi:10.1044/jshr.3903.643
History: Received July 17, 1995 , Accepted January 3, 1996
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 1996, Vol. 39, 643-654. doi:10.1044/jshr.3903.643
History: Received July 17, 1995; Accepted January 3, 1996

Criteria for identification of children as specifically language impaired (SLI) vary greatly among clinicians and researchers. Standardized psychometric discrepancy criteria are more restrictive and perhaps less sensitive to language impairment than is clinical judgment based on a child’s language performance in naturalistic contexts. This paper examines (a) differences in groups of preschool children clinically diagnosed as SLI who were and were not identified as SLI through standard psychometric discrepancy criteria, and (b) the validity of quantitative measures of mean length of utterance (MLU), syntax, and pragmatics derived from a spontaneous language sample as criteria for discriminating clinically diagnosed preschoolers from normally developing preschoolers. Spontaneous language data indicated that children clinically identified as SLI produced a significantly higher percentage of errors in spontaneous speech than normal children whether they met psychometric discrepancy criteria or not. Logistic regression analysis indicated that a combination of MLU, percent structural errors, and chronological age was the optimal subset of variables useful for predicting a clinical diagnosis of SLI. This combined criterion captured a larger proportion of the clinically identified SLI children than even the best psychometric discrepancy criteria.

Acknowledgments
This study was completed with support to Drs. Dunn, Flax, and Aram by a program project grant from NINDS NS20489, Nosology of Higher Cortical Dysfunction in Children—Dr. Isabelle Rapin, principal investigator. The authors wish to acknowledge the efforts of our co-investigators on this program project: (a) Drs. Barbara Wilson, Robin Morris, Deborah Fein, and Lynn Waterhouse, who also provided data for this study; (b) Dr. Doris Allen, who provided data and developed the definitions for structural, pragmatic, and role errors used in this study; and (c) Dr. Ina Wallace, who rated many of the spontaneous language samples.
The authors wish to thank Dr. Isabelle Rapin and Dr. Robert Golden for comments on earlier drafts of this paper and Mary Joan Sebastian, Jean DeMarco, and Helene Manigault for their assistance in preparing this paper.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access