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In the time of ever increasing caseloads, time pressures and a focus on percentile scores the more informal assessments can sometimes be pushed aside.  I'm here to encourage you to continue (or start) to do language samples as part of your assessment plan.  There are many advantages to completing a language sample.

1. A language sample gives you an idea how children functionally use language.  Some children we test do really really well on standardized assessments but, in fact, can have significant language delays.   That is because there are visual cues in the pictures, formats for most assessments follow a predictable pattern, which can help children be successfull.  As well, some kids are very test savvy. Language samples take many of these elements away and you can get a better idea on how they use language everyday. While you won't get a percentile score, it can help make a case for those children who score high but are functionally are delayed. This may allow them to access services that they require.

2. You can gather lots of information from a language sample.  How long are their sentences? How often do they speak? What kinds of vocabulary do they use or don't use? What kinds of pragmatic functions do they use? How is their turn taking?  How is their grammar? Do they stay on topic? These are just a few of the many many ways to use a language sample. For the form I use click here.

3. A language sample can help assess their articulation skills.  Again you can obtain a more  complete picture of a child's pronunciation.  It can help you figure when children have trouble pronouncing certain sounds/words, in what context. How is their pronunciation beyond the sentence level?

4. They can help you measure progress over time.  I'm lucky. I get to see the children I serve over a long period of time. It's fun to sit down with parents and compare their child's language samples.  It is concrete evidence of their child's progress. It can also help parents see the areas that their child needs to focus.  I find that parents are more open to working on these areas of weakness and implementing strategies that I recommend.

Now I'm not saying to rely solely on language samples but that they serve an important function in your assessment tool belt and should be incorporated as much as possible in your assessment plan.