Posted on Leave a comment

Friend or Friendly: What Does Age Have To Do with It?

In my social pragmatic language groups I target a wide variety of social communication goals for children with varying levels and degrees of impairment with a focus on improving their social pragmatic language competence.  In the past I have written blog posts on a variety of social  pragmatic language therapy topics, including strategies for improving students’ emotional intelligence as well as on how to teach students to develop insight into own strengths and weaknesses.  Today I wanted to discuss the importance of teaching students with social communication impairments, age recognition for friendship and safety purposes.

Now it is important to note that the focus of my sessions is a bit different from the focus of “teaching protective behaviors”, “circles of intimacy and relationships” or “teaching kids to deal with tricky people. Rather the goal is to teach the students to recognize who it is okay “to hang out” or be friends with, and who is considered to be too old/too young to be a friend.

Why is it important to teach age recognition?

There are actually quite a few reasons.

Firstly, it is a fairly well-known fact that in the absence of age-level peers with similar weaknesses, students with social communication deficits will seek out either much younger or much older children as playmates/friends as these individuals are far less likely to judge them for their perceived social deficits. While this may be a short-term solution to the “friendship problem” it also comes with its own host of challenges.  By maintaining relationships with peers outside of their age group, it is difficult for children with social communication impairments to understand and relate to peers of their age group in school setting. This creates a wider chasm in the classroom and increases the risk of peer isolation and bullying.

Secondly, the difficulty presented by friendships significantly outside of one’s peer group, is  the risk of, for lack of better words, ‘getting into trouble’. This may include but is not limited to exploring own sexuality (which is perfectly normal) with a significantly younger child (which can be problematic) or be instigated by an older child/adolescent in doing something inappropriate (e.g, shoplifting, drinking, smoking, exposing self to peers, etc.).

Thirdly, this difficulty (gauging people’s age) further exacerbates the students’ social communication deficits as it prevents them from effectively understanding such pragmatic parameters such as audience (e.g., with whom its appropriate to use certain language in a certain tone and with whom it is not) and topic (with whom it is appropriate to discuss certain subjects and with whom it is not).

So due to the above reasons I began working on age recognition with the students (6+ years of age) on my caseload diagnosed with social communication and language impairments.   I mention language impairments because it is very important to understand that more and more research is coming out connecting language impairments with social communication deficits. Therefore it’s not just students on the autism spectrum or students with social pragmatic deficits (an official DSM-5 diagnosis) who have difficulties in the area of social communication. Students with language impairments could also benefit from services focused on improving their social communication skills.

I begin my therapy sessions on age recognition by presenting the students with photos of people of different ages and asking them to attempt to explain how old do they think the people in the pictures are and what visual clues and/or prior knowledge assisted them in the formulation of their responses. I typically select the pictures from some of the social pragmatic therapy materials packets that I had created over the years (e.g., Gauging Moods, Are You Being Social?, Multiple Interpretations, etc.).

I make sure to carefully choose my pictures based on the student’s age and experience to ensure that the student has at least some degree of success making guesses.  So for a six-year-old I would select pictures of either toddlers or children his/her age to begin teaching them recognition of concepts: “same” and “younger” (e.g., Social Pragmatic Photo Bundle for Early Elementary Aged Children).

Kids playing in the room

For older children, I vary the photos of different aged individuals significantly.  I also introduce relevant vocabulary words as related to a particular age demographic, such as:

  • Infant (0-1 years of age)
  • Toddler (2-3 years of age)
  • Preschooler (3-5 years of age)
  • Teenager (individual between 13-19 years of age)
  • Early, mid and late 20s, 30s, 40s
  • Middle-aged (individuals around 50 years of age)
  • Senior/senior citizen (individuals ~65+ years of age)

I explain to the students that people of different ages look differently and teach them how to identify relevant visual clues to assist them with making educated guesses about people’s ages.  I also use photos of my own family or ask the students to bring in their own family photos to use for age determination of people in the presented pictures.  When students learn the ages of their own family members, they have an easier time determining the age ranges of strangers.

My next step is to explain to students the importance of understanding people’s ages.  I present to the students a picture of an individual significantly younger or older than them and ask them whether it’s appropriate to be that person’s friend.   Here students with better developed insight will state that it is not appropriate to be that person’s friend because they have nothing in common with them and do not share their interests. In contrast, students with limited insight will state that it’s perfectly okay to be that person’s friend.

This is the perfect teachable moment for explaining the difference between “friend” and “friendly”. Here I again reiterate that people of different ages have significantly different interests as well as have significant differences in what they are allowed to do (e.g., a 16-year-old is allowed to have a driver’s permit in many US states as well as has a later curfew while an 11-year-old clearly doesn’t).  I also explain that it’s perfectly okay to be friendly and polite with older or younger people in social situations (e.g., say hello all, talk, answer questions, etc.) but that does not constitute true friendship.

I also ask students to compile a list of qualities of what they look for in a “friend” as well as have them engage in some perspective taking (e.g, have them imagine that they showed up at a toddler’s house and asked to play with him/her, or that a teenager came into their house, and what their parents reaction would be?).

Finally, I discuss with students the importance of paying attention to who wants to hang out/be friends with them as well as vice versa (individuals they want to hang out with) in order to better develop their insight into the appropriateness of relationships. I instruct them to think critically when an older individual (e.g,  young adult) wants to get particularly close to them.  I use examples from an excellent post written by a colleague and good friend, Maria Del Duca of Communication Station Blog re: dealing with tricky people, in order to teach them to recognize signs of individuals crossing the boundary of being friendly, and what to do about it.

So there you have it. These are some of the reasons why I teach age recognition to clients with social communication weaknesses. Do you teach age recognition to your clients? If so, comment under this post, how do you do it and what materials do you use?

Helpful Smart Speech Resources Related to Assessment and Treatment of Social Pragmatic Disorders 

Posted on 3 Comments

Improving Emotional Intelligence of Children with Social Communication Disorders

Our ability to recognize our own and other people’s emotions, distinguish between and correctly identify different feelings, as well as use that information to guide our thinking and behavior is called Emotional Intelligence (EI) (Salovey, et al, 2008).

EI encompasses dual areas of: emotion understanding, which is an awareness and comprehension of one’s and others emotions (Harris, 2008) and emotion regulation, which are internal and external strategies people use to regulate emotions (Thompson, 1994).

Many students with social communication challenges experience problems with all aspects of EI, including the perception, comprehension, and regulation of emotions (Brinton & Fujiki, 2012).

A number of recent studies have found that children with language impairments also present with impaired emotional intelligence including impaired perception of facial expressions (Spackman, Fujiki, Brinton, Nelson, & Allen, 2005), prosodic emotions (Fujiki, Spackman, Brinton, & Illig, 2008) as well as abstract emotion comprehension (Ford & Milosky, 2003).

Children with impaired emotional intelligence will experience numerous difficulties during social interactions due to their difficulty interpreting emotional cues of others (Cloward, 2012).  These may include but not be limited to active participation in cooperative activities, as well as full/competent interactions during group tasks (Brinton, Fujiki, & Powell, 1997)

Many students with social pragmatic deficits and language impairments are taught to recognize emotional states as part of their therapy goals. However, the provided experience frequently does not go beyond the recognition of the requisite “happy”, “mad”, “sad” emotions. At times, I even see written blurbs from others therapists, which state that “the student has mastered the goals of emotion recognition”.  However, when probed further it appears that the student had merely mastered the basic spectrum of simple emotional states, which places the student at a distinct disadvantage  as compared to typically developing peers who are capable of recognition and awareness of a myriad of complex emotional states.

03well_eyes-tmagArticle

That is why I developed a product to target abstract emotional states comprehension in children with language impairments and social communication disorders. “Gauging Moods and Interpreting Abstract Emotional States: A Perspective Taking Activity Packet” is a social pragmatic photo/question set,  intended for children 7+ years of age, who present with difficulty recognizing abstract emotional states of others (beyond the “happy, mad, sad” option) as well as appropriately gauging their moods.

Many sets contain additional short stories with questions that focus on making inferencing, critical thinking as well as interpersonal negotiation skills.  Select sets require the students to create their own stories with a focus on the reasons why the person in the photograph might be feeling what s/he are feeling.

There are on average 12-15 questions per each photo.  Each page contains a photograph of a person feeling a particular emotion. After the student is presented with the photograph, they are asked a number of questions pertaining to the recognition of the person’s emotions, mood, the reason behind the emotion they are experiencing as well as what they could be potentially thinking at the moment.  Students are also asked to act out the depicted emotion they use of mirror.

Activities also include naming or finding (in a thesaurus or online) the synonyms and antonyms of a particular word in order to increase students’ vocabulary knowledge. A comprehensive two page “emotions word bank” is included in the last two pages of the packet to assist the students with the synonym/antonym selection, in the absence of a thesaurus or online access.

Students are also asked to use a target word in a complex sentence containing an adverbial (pre-chosen for them) as well as to identify a particular word or phrase associated with the photo or the described story situation.

Since many students with social pragmatic language deficits present with difficulty determining a person’s age (and prefer to relate to either younger or older individuals who are perceived to be “less judgmental of their difficulties”), this concept is also explicitly targeted in the packet.

This activity is suitable for both individual therapy sessions as well as group work.  In addition to its social pragmatic component is also intended to increase vocabulary knowledge and use as well as sentence length of children with language impairments.

Intended Audiences:

  • Clients with Language Impairments
  • Clients with Social Pragmatic Language Difficulties
  • Clients with Executive Function Difficulties
  • Clients with Psychiatric Impairments
    • ODD, ADHD, MD, Anxiety, Depression, etc.
  • Clients with Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Clients with Nonverbal Learning Disability
  • Clients with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
  • Adult and pediatric post-Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) clients
  • Clients with right-side CVA Damage

Areas covered in this packet:

  1. Gauging Age (based on visual support and pre-existing knowledge)
  2. Gauging Moods (based on visual clues and context)
  3. Explaining Facial Expressions
  4. Making Social Predictions and Inferences (re: people’s emotions)
  5. Assuming First Person Perspectives
  6. Understanding Sympathy
  7. Vocabulary Knowledge and Use (pertaining to the concept of Emotional Intelligence)
  8. Semantic Flexibility (production of synonyms and antonyms)
  9. Complex Sentence Production
  10. Expression of Emotional Reactions
  11. Problem Solving Social Situations
  12. Friendship Management and Peer Relatedness

This activity is suitable for both individual therapy sessions as well as group work.  In addition to its social pragmatic component is also intended to increase vocabulary knowledge and use as well as sentence length of children with language impairments. You can find it in my online store (HERE).

Helpful Smart Speech Resources:

References:

  1. Brinton, B., Fujiki, M., & Powell, J. M. (1997). The ability of children with language impairment to manipulate topic in a structured task. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 28, 3-11.
  2. Brinton B., & Fujiki, M. (2012). Social and affective factors in children with language impairment. Implications for literacy learning. In C. A. Stone, E. R. Silliman, B. J. Ehren, & K. Apel (Eds.), Handbook of language and literacy: Development and disorders (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Guilford.
  3. Cloward, R. (2012). The milk jug project: Expression of emotion in children with language impairment and autism spectrum disorder (Unpublished honor’s thesis). Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  4. Ford, J., & Milosky, L. (2003). Inferring emotional reactions in social situations: Differences in children with language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46(1), 21-30.
  5. Fujiki, M., Spackman, M. P., Brinton, B., & Illig, T. (2008). Ability of children with language impairment to understand emotion conveyed by prosody in a narrative passage. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 43(3), 330-345
  6. Harris, P. L. (2008). Children’s understanding of emotion. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones, & L. Feldman Barrett, (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (3rd ed., pp. 320–331). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  7. Salovey, P., Detweiler-Bedell, B. T., Detweiler-Bedell, J. B., & Mayer, J. D. (2008). Emotional intelligence. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones, & L. Feldman Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of Emotions (3rd ed., pp. 533-547). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  8. Spackman, M. P., Fujiki, M., Brinton, B., Nelson, D., & Allen, J. (2005). The ability of children with language impairment to recognize emotion conveyed by facial expression and music. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 26(3), 131-143.
  9. Thompson, R. (1994). Emotion regulation: A theme in search of definition. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(2-3), 25-52

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on 1 Comment

For the Love of Speech Blog Hop: February Edition

Slide2Today I am very excited to participate along with 27 other talented SLPs in the For the Love of Speech  Blog Hop.  I love being an SLP, and to spread that love around  from February 1-4 I am giving away a Valentine’s Day Product: “The Origins of Valentine’s Day: At thematic language activity packet for middle and high school students” .  

This thematic packet was created to target listening and reading comprehension of middle and high school students diagnosed with language impairments and learning disabilities. The packet contains Response to Intervention (RTI) Tier 2 vocabulary words in story context. Expressive language activities for the packet include production of synonyms and antonyms, fill-in the blank, as well as sentence formulation using story vocabulary. Comprehension questions pertaining to story are provided in an open ended question format. It is great for teaching reading comprehension and sophisticated vocabulary in a thematic context related to familiar to the student events.

You can grab this product  for free for a limited time only in my online store (HERE) and then head on over to Teach Speech 365 to grab her freebie as well. Collect all freebies by the time the blog hop ends on  February 4th!

10906349_10204835313255570_548865100319811098_n

For more useful FREE and PAID products check out my online store by clicking HERE or on the picture below SST Graphic

Posted on 3 Comments

Review of Social Language Development Test Adolescent: What SLPs Need to Know

Product ImageA few weeks ago I reviewed the  Social Language Development Test Elementary  (SLDTE) and today I am reviewing the  Social Language Development Test Adolescent  (SLDTA) currently available from PRO-ED.

Basic overview

Release date: 2010
Age Range: 12-18
Authors:Linda Bowers, Rosemary Huisingh, Carolyn LoGiudice
Publisher: Linguisystems (PRO-ED as of 2014)

The Social Language Development Test: Adolescent (SLDT-A) assesses adolescent students’ social language competence. The test addresses the students ability to take on someone else’s perspective, make correct inferences, interpret social language, state and justify logical solutions to social problems, engage in appropriate social interactions, as well as interpret ironic statements.

The Making Inferences subtest of the SLDT-A assesses students’ ability to infer what someone in the picture is thinking as well as state what visual cues aided him/her in the making of that inference.

The first question asks the student to pretend to be a person in the photo and then to tell what the person is thinking by responding as a direct quote. The quote must be relevant to the person’s situation and the emotional expression portrayed in the photo.The second question asks the student to identify the relevant visual clues that he used to make the inference.

Targeted Skills include:

  1. detection of nonverbal and context clues
  2. assuming the perspective of a specific person
  3. inferring what the person is thinking and expressing the person’s thought
  4. stating the visual cues that aided with response production

A score of 1 or 0 is assigned to each response, based on relevancy and quality. However, in contrast to the SLDTE student must give a correct response to both questions to achieve a score of 1.

Errors can result due to limited use of direct quotes (needed for correct responses to indicate empathy/attention to task), poor interpretation of provided visual clues (attended to irrelevant visuals) as well as vague, imprecise, and associated responses.

The Interpreting Social Language subtest of the SLDT-A assesses students’ ability to demonstrate actions (including gestures and postures), tell a reason or use for an action, think and talk about language and interpret figurative language including idioms.

A score of 1 or 0 is assigned to each response, based on relevancy and quality. Student must give a correct response to both questions to achieve a score of 1.

Targeted Skills:

  1. Ability to demonstrate actions such as gestures and postures
  2. Ability to explain appropriate reasons or use for actions
  3. Ability to think and talk about language
  4.  Ability to interpret figurative language (e.g., idioms)

Errors can result due to vague, imprecise (off-target), or associated responses as well as lack of responses. Errors can result due to lack of knowledge of correct nonverbal gestures to convey meaning of messages.  Finally errors can result due to literal interpretations of idiomatic
expressions.

The Problem Solving subtest of the SLDT-A assesses students’ ability to offer a logical solution to a problem and explain why that would be a good way to solve the problem.

To receive a score of 1, the student has to provide an appropriate solution with relevant justification. A score of 0 is given if any of the responses to either question were incorrect or inappropriate.

Targeted Skills:

  1. Taking perspectives of other people in various social situations
  2. Attending to and correctly interpreting social cues
  3. Quickly and efficiently determining best outcomes
  4. Coming up with effective solutions to social problems
  5. Effective conflict negotiation

Errors can result due to illogical or irrelevant responses, restatement of the problem, rude solutions, or poor solution justifications.

The Social Interaction subtest of the SLDT-A assesses students’ ability to socially interact with others.

A score of 1 is given for an appropriate response that supports the situation. A score of 0 is given for negative, unsupportive, or passive responses as well as for ignoring the situation, or doing nothing.

Targeted Skills:

  1. Provision of appropriate, supportive responses
  2. Knowing when to ignore the situation

Errors can result due to inappropriate responses that were negative, unsupportive or illogical.

The Interpreting Ironic Statements subtest of the SLDT-A assesses sudents’ ability to recognize sarcasm and interpret ironic statements.

To get a score of 1, the student must give a response that shows s/he understands that the speaker is being sarcastic and is saying the opposite of what s/he means.  A score of 0 is given if the response is literal and ignores the irony of the situation.

Errors can result due to consistent provision of literal idiom meanings indicating lack of
understanding of the speaker’s intentions as well as “missing” the context of the situation. errors also can result due the the student identifying that the speaker is being sarcastic but being unable to explain the reason behind the speaker’s sarcasm (elaboration).

For example, one student was presented with a story of a brother and a sister who extensively labored over a complicated recipe. When their mother asked them about how it came out, the sister responded to their mother’s query: “Oh, it was a piece of cake”. The student was then asked: What did she mean?” Instead of responding that the girl was being sarcastic because the recipe was very difficult, student responded: “easy.”  When presented with a story of a boy who refused to help his sister fold laundry under the pretext that he was “digesting his food”, he was then told by her, “Yeah, I can see you have your hands full.” the student was asked: “What did she mean?” student provided a literal response and stated: “he was busy.”

goal-setting

The following goals can be generated based on the performance on this test:

  • Long Term Goals: Student will improve social pragmatic language skills in order to effectively communicate with a variety of listeners/speakers in all social and academic contexts
  • Short Term Goals
  1. Student will improve his/her ability to  make inferences based on social scenarios
  2. Student will improve his/her interpretation of facial expressions, body language, and gestures
  3. Student will improve his/her ability to interpret social language (demonstrate appropriate gestures and postures, use appropriate reasons for actions, interpret figurative language)
  4. Student will his/her ability to provide multiple interpretations of presented social situations
  5. Student will improve his/her ability to improve social interactions with peers and staff (provide appropriate supportive responses; ignore situations when doing nothing is the best option, etc)
  6. Student will improve his/her ability to  interpret abstract language (e.g., understand common idioms, understand speaker’s beliefs, judge speaker’s attitude, recognize sarcasm, interpret irony, etc)

Caution

A word of caution regarding testing eligibility: 

I would also not administer this test to the following adolescent populations:

  • Students with social pragmatic impairments secondary to intellectual disabilities (IQ <70)
  • Students with severe forms of Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Students with severe language impairment and limited vocabulary inventories
  • English Language Learners (ELL) with suspected social pragmatic deficits 
  • Students from low SES backgrounds with suspected pragmatic deficits 

—I would not administer this test to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD)  students due to significantly increased potential for linguistic and cultural bias, which may result in test answers being marked incorrect due to the following:

  • Lack of relevant vocabulary knowledge will affect performance 
  • Lack of exposure to certain cultural and social experiences related to low SES status or lack of formal school instruction
    • How many of such students would know know the meaning of the word “sneer”?
    • —How many can actually show it?
  • Life experiences that the child simply hasn’t encountered yet
    • Has an —entire subtest devoted to idioms
  • —Select topics may be inappropriate for younger children
    • —Dieting
    • —Dating—
  • —Culturally biased when it comes to certain questions regarding friendship and personal values
    • —Individual vs. cooperative culture differences

What I like about this test: 

  • I like the fact that unlike the  CELF-5:M,  the test is composed of open-ended questions instead of offering orally/visually based multiple choice format as it is far more authentic in its representation of real world experiences
  • I really like how the select subtests (Making Inferences) require a response to both questions in order for the responder to achieve credit on the total subtest

Overall, when you carefully review what’s available in the area of assessment of social pragmatic abilities of adolescents this is an important test to have in your assessment toolkit as it provides very useful information for social pragmatic language treatment goal purposes.

Have YOU purchased SLDTA yet? If so how do you like using it? Post your comments, impressions and questions below.

Helpful Resources Related to Social Pragmatic Language Overview, Assessment  and Remediation:

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are the personal opinion of the author. The author is not affiliated with PRO-ED or Linguisystems in any way and was not provided by them with any complimentary products or compensation for the review of this product. 

Posted on 4 Comments

Test Review of CELF-5 Metalinguistics: What SLPs Need to Know

In mid-2014, I purchased the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals®, Fifth Edition Metalinguistics (CELF®-5 Metalinguistics), which is a revision of the Test of Language Competence–Expanded.

Basic overview

Release date: 2014
Age Range: 9-21
Author: Elizabeth Wiig and Wayne Secord
Publisher: Pearson

Description: According to the manual CELF–5M was created to “identify students 9-21 years old who have not acquired the expected levels of communicative competence and metalinguistic ability for their age” (pg. 1).  In other words the test targets higher level language skills beyond the basic vocabulary and grammar knowledge and use.  The authors recommend using this test with students with “subtle language disorders” or “those on the autism spectrum”.

The test contains 5 subtests:

The Metalinguistics Profile subtest of the CELF-5:M is a questionnaire (filled out by caregiver or teacher) which targets three areas: Words, Concepts, and Multiple Meanings; Inferences and Predictions; as well as Conversational Knowledge and UseIts aim is to obtain information about a student’s metalinguistic skills in everyday educational and social contexts to complement the evidence of metalinguistic strengths and weaknesses identified by the other subtests that comprise the CELF-5:M test battery.

Questions address such topics as the child’s comprehension of idioms and abstract language, their predicting and inferencing abilities, their ability to deal with unpleasant situations, participate in group discussions, as well as understand jokes and sarcasm, just to name a few.  A maximum of four points  can be obtained on each of it 30 questions.  The following is the rating criteria:   a score of one  is obtained  when a child ‘never’ does something in a particular category (e.g., doesn’t get the punchline of jokes).  A score  of two  is given when a child is capable of  understanding or using  something ‘some of the time’. A score of three  is given when a child is able to understand or perform something ‘often’. Finally, a score of  four is given when a child is capable of comprehending something ‘always’ or ‘almost always’.

word of caution,  when giving this profile  to either teachers or parents to fill out,  the SLP must ensure  that no overinflation or underestimation of scores takes place.  Frequently,  some parents may not have a clear understanding  of the extent of their child’s level of deficits.    Similarly, some teachers,  especially those who may not know the child very well,  or those who have worked with a child  for a very short period of time,  may overinflate the scores  when filling out the questionnaire.   However, the opposite may also occur.    A small group of  parents may  underestimate their children’s  abilities,   and provide poor scores   as a result  also not providing an objective picture  of the child’s level of deficits.  In such situations,  the best option may be for the SLP  to fill out the questionnaire   together  with the  parent  or teacher  in order to  provide explanations  of questions in a different categories.

The Making Inferences subtest of the CELF-5:M evaluates the student’s ability to identify and formulate logical inferences on the basis of existing causal relationships presented in short narrative texts. The student is visually and auditorily presented with a particular situation by the examiner. S/he is then asked to identify the best two out of four written answers for the ending and come up with her own additional reason other than the ones listed in the stimulus book.

On the multiple choice portion of the subtest errors can result due to provision of contradictory, unrelated and irrelevant responses. On the open ended questions portion of the subtest errors can result due to vague, confusing, incomplete, unlikely or illogical responses as well as due to contradictory and off topic answers.

 I must say that this is my least favorite subtest.   Here’s why.  In real life students are not provided with multiple choices  when asked to make  predictions or inferences.   That is why  I do not believe that performance on this subtest  is a true representation of the child’s ability in this area.

The Conversational Skills subtest of the CELF-5:M evaluates the student’s ability to initiate a conversation or respond in a way that is relevant and pragmatically appropriate to the context and audience while incorporating given words in semantically and syntactically correct sentences. S/he are presented with a picture scene that creates a conversational context and two or three words which are also printed above the pictured scene. S/he are then asked to formulate a conversationally and pragmatically appropriate sentence for the given context using all of the target words in the form (tense, number, etc.) provided.

Errors on this subtest can result due to pragmatic, semantic or syntactic errors. With respect to pragmatics errors can result due to illogical, nonsensical, vague or incomplete sentences as well as due to sentence formulation which does not take into account presented scenes. With respect to semantics errors can result due to missing or misused target words as well as due to vague, incorrect or misused verbiage. With respect to syntax errors can result due to use of sentence fragments, morphological misuse of target words (changing word forms) as well as syntact deviations on non-target words.

The Multiple Meanings subtest of the CELF-5:M evaluates the student’s ability to recognize and interpret different meanings of selected lexical (word level) and structural (sentence level) ambiguities. S/he are presented a sentence (orally and in text) that contained an ambiguity at either the word or sentence level. S/he are then asked to describe two meanings for each presented sentence.

Errors can result due to difficulty interpreting lexical and structural ambiguities as well as due to an inability to provide more than one interpretation to presented multiple meaning words.

The Figurative Language subtest of the CELF-5:M evaluates the student’s ability to interpret figurative expressions (idioms) within a given context and match each expression with another figurative expression of similar meaning given verbal and written support.

Errors on this subtest can result due to difficulty explaining the meanings of idiomatic expressions, as well as due to difficulty selecting the appropriate meaning from visually provided multiple choice answers containing related idiomatic expressions.

Based on testing the following long-term goal can be generated:

LTG: Student will improve his/her metalinguistic abilities (thinking about language) for academic and social purposes

It can also yield the following short-term goals

  1. Student will improve ability to make social inferences with an without written support
  2. Student will improve ability to to make social predictions with and without written support
  3. Student will produce (choose one/all: syntactically, semantically, pragmatically) appropriate compound and complex sentences with and without visual support
  4. Student will improve ability to explain context embedded multiple meaning words
  5. Student will improve ability to explain ambiguously worded language
  6. Student will improve ability to explain figurative language and idiomatic expressions

A word of caution regarding testing eligibility: 

What I am concerned about: 

  • It is rather costly with a sticker price of $376, which is far above other tests assessing similar abilities on the market.
  • Test administration begins at 9 years of age. However, metalinguistic abilities develop in children much earlier than nine years of age. Children and young as 6 years of age can present with glaring metalinguistic deficits but unless the examiner has access to another testing which could assess the children’s metalinguistic abilities we have to wait until the child is nine and is clearly behind his or her peers in their metalinguistic development in order to confirm the presence of deficits.
  • I also don’t understand the presence of visual and written stimuli on select testing subtests. Children are not provided with multiple-choice answers or written support in daily social and academic situations. As a result of the presence of these aids score overinflation may occur with those children who do well given compensatory strategies but who have difficulty generating novel spontaneous responses.
  • Similarly, I am concerned that higher functioning yet socially clueless students may be administered this test because the examiners may believe that it would accurately assess their higher functioning social pragmatic language abilities. However many higher functioning students will pass this test with flying colors, which is why I urge considerable caution when selecting student population for testing administration
    • Very Important: See the sensitivity and specificity details of CELF-5M HERE

Consequently the CELF-5: M administration is not for everyone. As mentioned before I would only administer this test to higher functioning  (but not too high functioning) students undergoing language assessment for the first time or to higher functioning students receiving a re-evaluation, who have previously passed the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-5 with ease. This test would not be appropriate for Severely Challenged and Challenged Social Communicators (see Winner, 2011)

I would also not administer this test to the following populations:

  • Students with intellectual disabilities
  • Students with severe language impairment and limited vocabulary inventories
  • English Language Learners (ELL) with suspected language deficits 
  • Students from low SES backgrounds*

I would not administer the CELF-5:M to the latter two groups of students due to significantly increased potential for linguistic and cultural bias stemming from lack of previous knowledge and exposure to popular culture as well as idiomatic expressions.

I would also not administer this test to Nuance Challenged Social Communicators (Winner, 2011). Specifically to Socially Anxious and Weak Interactive Social Communicators (Winner, 2011 pg. 9-12 ). These are the students with average or above average verbal language abilities most of whom did not have language delays when they were young. They have a ‘well-developed social radar’ and they’re highly aware of other people feelings and thoughts. However they have difficulties navigating subtle social cues of others. As a result this particular group of students tends to score quite on metalinguistic and social pragmatic testing of reduced complexity yet still present with pervasive social pragmatic language deficits.

Consequently, a Social Language Development Test (Linguisystems) or a Social Thinking Dynamic Assessment Protocol (Winner) administration would better suit their needs.

What I do like about this test:

This test allows me to identify more subtle language-based difficulties in verbal children with average to high average intelligence (or Emerging Social Communicators as per Winner, 2011) who present with metalinguistic and social pragmatic language weaknesses in the following areas:

  • Social predicting and inferencing
  • Conversational rules and breakdown repairs
  • Knowledge of high-level and abstract vocabulary words
  • Identification and usage of ambiguous and figurative language
  • Coherent and cohesive discourse and narrative formulation
  • Knowledge and use of multiple meaning words in a variety of conversational and text-embedded contexts

Overall, this is an nice test to have in your assessment toolkit. Consequently,if SLPs exercise caution in test candidate selection they can obtain very useful information for metalinguistic and social pragmatic language treatment goal purposes.

NEW: Need a CELF-5M Template Report? Find it HERE

3-1-19 Update: Since this review was written in October 2014, I have reviewed other tests, including the Clinical Assessment of Pragmatics (CAPs), which can be substituted and effectively used to delve into metalinguistic abilities of students with social communication difficulties. As such, while I still use the CELF-5M rather frequently due to its suitability for a select number of students that I assess, given its described limitations,  I would approach its purchase with caution, if it were the only test to be owned by the therapist for the purpose of assessment (it’s perfectly suitable as part of a battery but not as a standalone and only option).

Helpful Resources Related to Social Pragmatic Language Overview, Assessment  and Remediation:

 Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are the personal opinion of the author. The author is not affiliated with Pearson in any way and was not provided by them with any complimentary products or compensation for the review of this product. 

Posted on 1 Comment

Why Do I Have to Tell You What’s Wrong with My Child? Or On the Importance of Targeted Assessments

A few days ago I received a phone call from a parent who was seeking a language evaluation for her child. As it is my policy with all assessments, I asked her to fill out an intake and a checklist to identify her child’s specific areas of difficulty in order to compile a comprehensive and targeted testing battery.  Her response to me was: “I’ve never heard of this before? Why do I have to tell you what’s wrong with my child? Why can’t you figure it out?” Similarly, last week, another parent has questioned: “So you can’t do the assessment without this form?” Given the above questions, and especially because May is a Better Hearing and Speech Month #BHSM, during which it is important to raise awareness about communication disorders, I want to take this time to explain to parents why performing targeted speech language assessments is SO CRUCIAL.

To begin with it is very important to understand that speech and language can be analyzed in many different ways beyond looking at pronunciation, vocabulary or listening and speaking skills.

Targeted areas within the scope of practice of pediatric school based speech language pathologists include the assessment of:

  • SPEECH
    • The child may have difficulties with pronunciation of sounds in words, stutter, clutter, have a lisp or have difficulties in the areas of voice, prosody, or resonance. For the majority of  the above difficulties completely different tests and testing procedures may be needed in order to appropriately assess the child.
  • LANGUAGE
    • Receptive Language
      • Ability to follow directions, answer questions, recall sentences, understand verbal messages, as well as comprehend orally presented text
    • Memory and Attention 
      • Also see executive function skills
    • Expressive Language
      • Vocabulary knowledge and use, formulation of words and sentences as well as production of narratives or stories
    • Problem Solving
      • Verbal reasoning and critical thinking skills are very important for successful independent decision making as well as for interpretation of academically based texts and complete assignments
    • Pragmatic Language 
      • Successful use of language for a variety of communicative purposes
        • Initiate and maintain topics, maintain conversational exchanges, request help, etc
    • Social Emotional Competence
      • Effective interpersonal negotiation skills, compromise and negotiation abilities, as well as perspective taking are integral to academic and social success. These abilities are often compromised in children with language disorders and require a thorough assessment
    • Executive Functions (EFs) 
      • These are higher level cognitive processes involved in inhibition of thought, action and emotion, which are located in the prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobe of the brain.  
      • Major EF components include working memory, inhibitory control, planning, and set-shifting. EFs contribute to child’s ability to sustain attention, ignore distractions, and succeed in academic settings. 
  • READING DISABILITIES AND DYSLEXIA
    • Phonological Awareness
    • Reading Ability
    • Writing
    • Spelling 

One General Language Test Does Not Fit All! 

Children with speech and language disorders do not necessarily display weaknesses in all affected areas but may only display difficulties in selected few.

To illustrate, high functioning students on the autistic spectrum may have very strong academic skills related to comprehension and expression of language but may display significant social pragmatic language weaknesses, which will not be apparent on general language testing (e.g., administration of Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals -5). Thus, the administration of a general language test will be contraindicated for these students as it will only show typical performance on these tests and will not qualify them for targeted language based services that they need.  However, by administering to them a testing battery composed of tests sensitive to social pragmatic language competence will highlight their areas of difficulty and result in a creation of a targeted intervention plan to improve their abilities in the affected areas. 

Similarly, children at risk for reading disabilities will not benefit from the administration of general language testing either, since their deficits may lie in the areas of sound discrimination, isolation, or blending as well as as impaired decoding ability.  So the administration of tests sensitive to phonological awareness and emergent reading ability would be much more relevant. 

This is exactly why taking an extra step and filling out a simple form will result in a much more targeted and beneficial speech language assessment for the child.  The goal of any competent professional assessment is to eliminate the administration of unnecessary and irrelevant tests and focus only on the administration of instruments directly targeting the areas of difficulty that the child presents with.  Given the fact that assessment of language covers so many broad areas, it makes perfect sense to ask parents to fill out relevant checklists/intakes as a routine part of a pre-assessment procedure.  Otherwise, even after observations in school setting, I would still just be blindly ‘fishing’ for deficits without really knowing whether I will  ‘accidentally stumble upon them’ using a general test at hand.

Of course, even checklists need to be targeted by age and areas of functioning. Here’s how I use mine. When performing comprehensive fist time assessments I ask the parent to fill out the comprehensive checklists based on the child’s age.    These are broken down as follows:

However, oftentimes when I perform reassessments or second opinion evaluations, I may ask the parent to fill out checklists pertaining to specific, known, areas of difficulty. These currently include:

After the parent fills the checklist out, the child’s areas of difficulty literally jump out from the pages. Now, all I need to do is to choose the appropriate testing instruments, which will BEST help me determine the exact nature and cause of the child’s deficits and I am all set. I administer the testing, interpret the results and write a comprehensive report detailing which therapy goals will be targeted. And this is why pre-assessment checklist administration is so important.

Helpful Resources

Posted on 5 Comments

Between the Lines Advanced App Review and Giveaway

Today I am reviewing an awesome social-pragmatic language app by Hamaguchi Apps called: Between the Lines Advanced, which focuses on targeting the following skills: