Parental Judgments of Preschoolers' Speech and Language Development: A Resource for Assessment and IEP Planning

Pamela Hadley, Mabel Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An important component of a preschooler's speech and language evaluation is the parental report of the child's developmental history and current levels of functioning. Often parents are asked to share any particular concerns they have about their child's communicative development. Some parents remark on their child's speech, “My child has blurry speech,” or “I can understand what my child says, but no one else can.” Others focus on their child's limited expressive language skills: “My child seems to understand what I say to him, but he doesn't build many of his own sentences.”

Such replies provide the speech-language pathologist (SLP) with a rough idea of how a parent perceives the child's communicative limitations, but it is usually difficult to know what to make of such comments. Because parents and SLPs usually do not use the same terminology, there is no assurance that they are referring to the same communicative phenomena, and there is little information available about how accurate parents are likely to be with such general characterizations of preschoolers' communicative competencies.

On the other hand, valid parental reports would be of great value to the SLP. Such information could help the SLP evaluate the validity of the formal test scores obtained in those domains for which tests are available (i.e., speech, semantics, and syntax). Furthermore, valid parental reports could provide valuable information about conversational skills not readily observable in formal instructional settings or communicative abilities evident in situations familiar to the child. Finally, if parents and SLPs could share their observations in a way that was meaningful to each of them, it would greatly facilitate intervention planning, formulation of goals for the child's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), and evaluation of change over the period of intervention.

In this article we report on an instrument, the Speech and Language Assessment Scale (SLAS), which was designed to elicit parental judgments of preschool children's speech and language skills in a way that can be useful for initial assessment, for development of IEP goals and intervention plans, for monitoring a child's speech and language abilities, and for ongoing consultation with parents about their child's communicative capabilities. We will proceed in the following way. After a brief review of methods of parent report, we describe the development of SLAS, with information about the instrument's reliability and validity. We then report the results of a study of parent and SLP ratings of children, identifying the areas of agreement and disagreement. We conclude with clinical implications and recommended uses of SLAS.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-288
JournalSeminars in Speech and Language
Issue number04
StatePublished - Nov 1993
Externally publishedYes


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