Course Introduction

It’s one of the most fundamental questions we ask in our practices: which kids—of out this class, this school, this group coming through your clinic doors—have a language disorder? Which kids should be receiving our services? (Similar questions, but not always the same answer…) Straightforward questions, but given diverse populations, imperfect assessments, and restrictive policies from the powers-that-be, answering them can be confusing. And considering the implications of getting the answers wrong (withholding needed services, or kids getting wrongly labeled with a disability), it’s super important for us to understand the research. In this course, we’ve put together some of our favorite research reviews on assessment for language disorders. The focus is on published language tests and screeners, since that’s what a lot of us are relying on. For research specific to language sampling (the gold standard for assessment!), check out our course devoted to that subject.

The first review discusses the shift to the Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) term, away from Specific Language Impairment or other terms you might have learned or used in the past. Another four reviews discuss possible methods for screening school-aged children for language disorders, including some ideas that would save tons of time (woo!), like screening in groups or via teacher questionnaires.

Next, we share some research that should be required reading for anyone using standardized tests to diagnose language disorders, so, probably 95% of pediatric SLPs? We know that we have to consider diagnostic accuracy (AKA sensitivity and specificity), the population in the norming sample, and the other psychometrics of tests (reliability and validity) before we feel confident about them. These reviews dive into some of these issues, and show us why predetermined cutoff scores and cookie-cutter assessment processes can cause trouble.

Beyond general issues with standardized tests, we have to give special consideration when planning and analyzing evaluations for kids who speak non-mainstream dialects or are dual language learners*. The last two reviews dive into evaluating kids from those populations.

*This particular group is the focus of so much great research that we devoted a whole separate course to it, but you’ll get a taste here.

Learning Outcomes & Details

As a result of this course, participants will be able to:

  1. Explain what the term “Developmental Language Disorder” refers to.

  2. List features of standardized tests to consider in the diagnosis of developmental language disorder.

  3. List potential pitfalls that can occur in the diagnosis of developmental language disorder in speakers of a non-mainstream dialect and in dual language learners.

Course Type: Text; Web or downloadable PDF

Time: This is an hour course.

ASHA CEUs: This course is offered for .1 ASHA CEUs (Intermediate level, Professional area)

Course Completion Requirements: Read the full course, then take a quiz at the end. Must pass with a score of 80% or better (two attempts allowed)

Questions? See our frequently asked questions.


Course edited and compiled by:

Meredith Harold, PhD, CCC-SLP is owner of The Informed SLP and faculty at Rockhurst University. Financial Disclosure— receives salary from The Informed SLP and Rockhurst University. Nonfinancial Disclosure— Vice President of Speech–Language Pathology for the Kansas Speech–Language–Hearing Association Board; Board member of the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association Committee on Clinical Research, Implementation Science, and Evidence-Based Practice.

Karen Evans, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech–language pathologist at Intermediate District 287, and employee of The Informed SLP. Financial Disclosure— receives salary from Intermediate District 287 and The Informed SLP. Nonfinancial Disclosure— None.

Full research and writing team bios can be found here. The Informed SLP’s researchers and writers are prohibited from having any financial or nonfinancial conflicts of interest related to the content they research and report on.

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This course is offered for .1 ASHA CEUs (Intermediate level, Professional area).