Ages and Stages, Speech & Language

Part 3 of Standardized testing and Down syndrome: Comparrisons

“I don’t compare my child with others.”

I have yet to meet the person who made this statement honestly. The truth is, we do compare children…all the time. Sometimes comparisons are helpful, sometimes harmful. So what about comparing children with Down syndrome?

What’s the point of comparing children with Down syndrome to peers without Down syndrome?

As I posted in Part 1 of the series, a diagnosis of DS does not mean your child will have a learning disability, speech disorder, etc. although there is a higher likelihood. Using a standardized test with a child with DS allows us to identify differences in language development compared to the typical pattern of acquisition.

For therapy eligibility requirements, many clinics and schools require standardized testing in order to show that a disorder exists. A child with DS will not qualify for services with the diagnosis of DS alone. I have had many insurance companies request standardized assessments and letters of medical necessity explaining why a child with Down syndrome should receive therapy – Even insurance companies who say they will cover children with a genetic/developmental diagnosis.

So why can’t we just compare children with Down syndrome to other children with Down syndrome?

The problem is most assessments weren’t made to compare children with DS to each other. The Bayley, III is one test that does have “norms” for children with DS. However, the test is only for children ages birth to 3 1/2 years old. So using this test we can compare a child’s performance on this test to other children with Down syndrome.

If your child has a “food allergy” you want to know to what food, right? What good is the term “language disorder” without knowing the specifics? Regardless of who we compare the child to – their peer with DS or peer without DS – the importance of test interpretation stands. When  planning for treatment the therapist needs to know what specific areas of communication are absent AND which skills are mastered. The SLP should use those strengths to bridge the needs when planning goals and therapy activities.

Ask your SLP 1.) how your child’s language goals were determined, and 2.) how you can help carry over these goals at home.

2 thoughts on “Part 3 of Standardized testing and Down syndrome: Comparrisons”

  1. Do you have a recommendation for a standardized assessment for a student with DS who is in elementary school?

    1. No, unfortunately there is no set “gold standard” for elementary school language testing. It depends on what is being measures – total language skills, speech clarity/articulation, etc. I have used many different tests depending on my interview with the child and parent. One test I would use for more verbal children is not one I would select for children or teens who are less verbal. Asking how your child will be assessed and how the SLP came to the decision to use the specific tests is an important one.

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