Epidemiology of speech and language impairment in a nationally representative sample of 4- to 5-year-old children

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Abstract

Purpose: To draw on multiple sources of information to determine prevalence of speech and language impairment in young Australian children.Method: Information about 4,983 4- to 5-year-olds from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children was obtained via parent interviews and questionnaires, teacher questionnaires, and direct assessment. Data were statistically weighted to the Australian population of 253,202 children in the target age group.Results: Parent-reported prevalence: 25.2% had concerns about how their child talked and made speech sounds (11.8% concerned; 13.4% a little concerned), and 9.5% had concerns about how their child understood language (4.4% concerned; 5.1% a little concerned). Parents who reported concerns identified "speech not clear to others" as the most frequent area of difficulty (12.0%). Teacher-reported prevalence: 22.3% of children were considered to be less competent than others in their expressive language ability (6.7% much less competent; 15.6% less competent); 16.9% were considered to be less competent than others in their receptive language ability (4.0% much less competent; 12.9% less competent). The match between parent and teacher identification was higher for expressive speech and language concern than for receptive language. Direct assessment: 13.0% of children were 1'2 SD below the mean on the Adapted Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III and a further 1.7% were >2SD below the mean. Parent and teacher reports were significantly correlated with scores obtained via direct assessment. Period prevalence: Parents and teachers reported 14.5% of children had accessed SLP services. 2.2% indicated that they needed but could not access SLP.Conclusion: Multiple indicators of speech and language impairment in diverse contexts confirmed the high prevalence of this condition in early childhood, and a concomitant need for speech-language pathology services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1213-1229
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Volume52
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

Grant Number

  • DP0773978

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