I’m very busy at the moment writing annual review reports and hopefully explaining what all my assessments mean. So we thought it would be helpful to talk about the assessments we use and what the children have to do.
In the UK, there are a few, main standardised assessments that Speech Therapists use. Particularly once a child is school aged or being assessed for an Education Health Care Plan (previously Statement of Special Educational Needs). There are of course many, many different assessments, but most of the local authorities across the country prefer a few of the standardised assessments.
A standardised assessment is one that has been carried out on many children so you can compare the score of one child to the average for other children of that age. It also means a standard score and age equivalent can be generated. Probably the most commonly used assessment of language is the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamental (CELF), which we have spoken about before, here and here. So today I am going to write about one of the other language assessments for primary aged children in the UK – The Assessment of Comprehension and Expression or the ACE. The ACE is designed for children between the ages of 6-11.
As with many assessments for school aged children the assessment comes in the form of pictures in a flip book. The child hears a statement or question and has to point to or explain their answers. The ACE has individual sub-tests which look at different areas of language. The child needs to complete 5 of these to achieve an overall score. There are then extension subtests which look at some of the harder aspects of language e.g. narrative construction and non-literal language.
The child is shown a page with four similar, but not identical pictures. They are then read a sentence and have to point to the picture which fits best. This is assessing the child’s ability to retain a sentence and then process the words and concepts within it. So for example they might hear a sentence such as “The girl sat next to the tree”. A nice addition in the ACE is that within this subtest there is also a section on how people feel and matching emotions to situations.
This is one of my favourite subtests! The child is shown a single picture which shows a house that has been burgled. There are a number of clues in the picture, but the child is also expected to think logically and make predictions. This is something many children with language difficulties find hard. I find it useful because we see many children who can process sentences, but find this type of task very tricky. These skills are really important both in the classroom and socially.
Here the child is shown a page with a single picture on and they have to say what it is. The vocabulary gets harder as the subtest goes on.
In this subtest the child is shown a picture and read a sentence or the beginning of a sentence. They are then marked on the appropriateness of their response. This is testing the child’s ability to construct sentences and use different grammatical structures.
Here the child is shown a page with five pictures. They have to match the picture the centre of the page with one of the other four pictures. These will be linked in some way so for example from pig, cup, sheep, eagle and chair, pig and sheep go together as they are both farm animals. Although the eagle is also an animal it doesn’t fit as well with the pig as the sheep does. The first part of this subtest has pictures, but the second half is words only.
These five subtests make up the main body of the assessment and you may find the therapist stops there. This will take quite a while for a child to complete, particularly as they get older and can answer more questions. However there are a further 2 subtests, which I find really useful.
I find this subtest really useful. The beginning of the test is a choice of 4 pictures and then the information is given in writing. The child hears a non-literal phrase, such as “pull your socks up” and they have to point to the picture which best fits the phrase. The useful bit is that one of the incorrect answers will be the literal interpretation – so somebody physically pulling their socks up. Non-literal language is used so frequently it is very important that children understand that words aren’t always taken as they are heard.
Narrative Propositions and Narrative syntax/ discourse
Here the child is read a story and shown pictures at the same time. They are then asked to retell the story, using the same pictures. The narrative propositions gives a score for using target words and phrases from the story they heard. The syntax/ discourse score looks at the technical aspects of the child’s story such as which tense they use to retell the story, if they use direct speech or questions for example.
So, this type of standardised assessment is lots of looking at pictures, pointing and talking! They require good concentration and I often find that a child may need assessing on more than one day to complete the entire assessment.
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