Assessing early sociocognitive and language skills in young Saudi children

AlKadhi, Aseel;
Open Access English
  • Country: United Kingdom
Children with early language delay form a heterogeneous group. Although a significant number will catch up and develop language in the normal range, some will continue to have difficulties with language. Predicting the outcome for these children represents a challenging task for clinicians.\ud \ud It has been suggested that the assessment of sociocognitive skills contributes distinctively to the prediction of persistence of language and communication difficulties and the nature of these difficulties. In the absence of standardized assessments in Saudi Arabia for children with early language delay, this study aimed to take a first step to filling this gap by developing a battery of early sociocognitive and language measures. The battery consisted of six measures assessing sociocognitive and language skills using direct and indirect methods, some existing and some newly developed or adapted for this project. Sociocognitive measures were the Early Sociocognitive Battery (ESB; Chiat & Roy, 2006b), together with a new Motor Imitation test (MI) and Sociocognitive Questionnaire (SCogQ); language measures included the Sentence Repetition test (Wallan, Chiat, & Roy, 2011), a new Arabic research adaptation of the Language Use Inventory (O’Neill, 2009), and a preschool adapted version of the Arabic Picture Vocabulary Test (Shaalan, 2010). Since this project was performed in a very different language culture and included a wider range of sociocognitive and language measures than most previous studies, a second aim was to investigate relations between the different sociocognitive and language skills.\ud \ud The battery was administered to 161 Saudi children between the ages of 2;0-3;5 years, divided into three six-months age groups and almost equally divided into boys and girls.\ud \ud Addressing the first aim of this study, results showed that all the measures with the exception of the SCogQ were reliable, valid, and age sensitive. These findings suggest that the measures are fit for purpose and have the potential to identify children with early language delay. Parental concern matched children’s performance on direct and indirect measures of language for the majority of children.\ud \ud Turning to the second aim of the study, regressional analyses using the three language assessments as outcome measures showed that the ESB and MI were important predictors of pragmatic language and receptive vocabulary when other measures had been taken into account.\ud \ud It is concluded that the substantial set of data that this study has produced on the wide-ranging battery of assessments can serve as a reference for clinical comparison and as a foundation for standardization with a fully representative sample of young Saudi children. These measures not only enable the formal identification of a delay in Saudi preschoolers but are also informative about strengths and difficulties and can guide intervention. The results add to current understanding of the role sociocognitive skills play in language development, and provide the foundation for longitudinal research investigating relations to longer term outcomes.
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