Screening school-age children for developmental language disorder in primary care

Kerry Danahy Ebert, Cesar Ochoa-Lubinoff, Melissa P. Holmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate the feasibility, preliminary diagnostic accuracy and reliability of a screening tool for developmental language disorder (DLD) in early school-age children seen in a paediatric primary care setting. Method: Sixty-six children aged 6–8years attending well-child visits at a large urban paediatric clinic participated. Parents completed a five-item questionnaire and children completed a 10-item sentence repetition task. A subset of participants (n = 25) completed diagnostic testing for DLD. Exploratory cut-offs were developed for the parent questionnaire, the child sentence repetition task and the combined score. Result: The screening tool could be reliably implemented in 2 min by personnel without specialty training. The best diagnostic accuracy measures were obtained by combining the parent questionnaire and child sentence repetition task. The tool showed strong internal consistency, but the parent and child scores showed only moderate agreement. Conclusion: The screening tool is promising for utilisation in primary care clinical settings but should first be validated in larger and more diverse samples. Both the parent and child components of the screening contributed to the preliminary findings of high sensitivity and specificity found in this study. Screening for DLD in school age children can increase awareness of an under-recognised disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-162
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Grant # R03DC013760. The authors thank Klaudia Bednarczyk, Tirsit Berhanu, Allison Byrne, Rachel Slager and Omar Taibah for their assistance with data collection and management.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 The Speech Pathology Association of Australia Limited.


  • developmental disorders
  • diagnostic accuracy
  • identification
  • paediatricians


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