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Assessing Speech-Language Skills in Children with Selective Mutism

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Assessing Speech-Language Skills in Children with Selective Mutism

All material Copyright © 2008, Evelyn R. Klein, PhD.
Reprinted with the express permission of the primary author, Evelyn R. Klein, PhD. as originally presented at the 2008 ASHA Convention.

By: Evelyn R. Klein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, Sara Cohen, M.S., Emma Petrucci, & Ashley Keates

Evaluating children with selective mutism (SM) is challenging because they rarely talk to unfamiliar people. However, in order to receive needed professional services in the schools with an individualized educational plan (IEP), standardized test results are required. This study investigated a novel approach to obtain needed test results for speech, auditory memory, and receptive and expressive language. Twenty nine (29) children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old (previously diagnosed with SM) took part in this study. Since children with SM rarely talk to unfamiliar people, and since more direct and systematic language assessments are needed, parents were trained in testing procedures. Children were randomly assigned to either ‘parent first’ or ‘professional first’ test groups using a counterbalanced design. During testing, parents were viewed by project staff via a one-way mirror and videotaped for later transcript analysis. Each child was measured on receptive and expressive vocabulary, narrative language skills, and auditory word memory. Speech articulation and fluency were also evaluated. In addition, parents and teachers completed questionnaires providing information about each child’s behavioral functioning. Of the 29 children assessed, the new testing procedure identified 12 with an expressive language disorder and 5 with a receptive/expressive language disorder. Children with SM who exhibited expressive language deficits performed significantly better on tests of receptive language and vocabulary than on expressive language formulation measures when assessed by their parents. The finding that 58% of the children tested in this new format had a language-based disorder (expressive or receptive-expressive) and that 62% of the sample had a speech disorder (articulation or fluency) suggests that a Communication Disorder could be a source helping to fuel the anxiety in children with SM. This research supports the benefits of guided parent involvement for evaluating children with SM.

View the complete complete poster presentation HERE

Featured Author: Evelyn R. Klein, PhD., CCC-SLP

We thank Evelyn R. Klein for allowing PediaStaff to reprint her poster presentation Evelyn R. Klein, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-CL is an Associate Professor at La Salle University in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Science. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of language disorders, research design, and counseling and is actively involved in research, investigating assessment and treatment methodologies for selective mutism. Dr. Klein holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence and is an ASHA Fellow with board recognition in child language. In addition, Dr. Klein is a licensed psychologist with post-doctoral training in clinical neuropsychology.

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Tags: Selective Mutism SLP Article