Ages and Stages, Birth to Three, Elementary, Jr. & Sr. High, Speech & Language, Uncategorized

Part 2 of Standardized Testing and Down syndrome: Age Equivalents

If you didn’t get a chance to read my first post on standardized testing and DS you can read it here. I discussed how speech-language pathologists (SLP) use standardized assessments to measure growth and make diagnoses related to communication. Today I want to talk more about age equivalents and comparisons.

What is the point of an age-equivalent?

Age-equivalents provide a simple way for us to understand where a child is functioning. It’s like  a point on a graph or a photo – a moment captured in time. A child’s age equivalent gives us a broad understanding of how they communicate. Many families are able to provide a general guess at their child’s age equivalent, especially those parents who have had children before their child with DS. This is because most children gain skills, or milestones, at similar ages and in a predictable way.

In our clinic the developmental and behavioral pediatrician frequently asks, “Where do you see your child?” Meaning, if you had to assign an age to your child, what would it be? The reason this question is asked is twofold. 1). It helps the team gauge the child’s developmental level, and 2). It provides insight into how the parentsunderstand their child. Frequently parents are able to give an age-equivalent that matches what we find during testing. However, getting an age equivalent isn’t the reason we assess a child.

I guessed my child’s age equivalent right away. What’s the point of telling me I was right?

An age equivalent does not tell us specifics – how a child communicates or what they understand. This is the reason we assess the child! The examiner reports the age equivalent of receptive language, expressive language, and total language (if available for the test given), analyzes the test, and indicates skills mastered, emerging, or absent.

An age-equivalent without skill description is like Starbucks without Coffee

I could order something different, but what I came for was coffee! And so it is with testing. What a parent is really looking for is an explanation of their child’s skills and what to do next, not just a confirmation of what they already knew. For example, “Mary showed me that she understands many words during the day.  She follows simple directions and understands the word ‘no.’ The next step is for Mary to learn social routines like giving ‘high-5’ or waving to others.” The most important outcome is for parents to understand what the age equivalent means, not what it is.

Next up: Part 3 Comparing children with DS to same-age peers with and without DS; Part 4 Parental emotions to standardized testing


(Full disclosure: Starbucks did not endorse this post. However, I do enjoy Starbucks. Especially a Grande non-fat, no-whip, two pump, pumpkin spice latte…mmm…)


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