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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

The Latest and Greatest Assessments for Children Ages 3-5

Published November 8, 2011 8:32 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling

This fall at the preschool where I practice, we have had an unusually high number of children in need of full evaluations all for various reasons. For some, they were simply due for their re-evaluations which happen every 2 years at this age in our district. For others, we had decided as a team that several children were in need of a more structured placement to help them become more successful. In our district, anytime you are deciding to possibly place a child in a "more restrictive" environment, a full and complete evaluation with the permission of the parents is required and necessary, as well as an updated IEP. 

Some of the assessments I have been mostly using include:

  • The Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation - Second Edition Despite being published in 2000, it appears to still be the best option for assessing articulation delays in children.
  • DAYC (Developmental Assessment of Young Children) A developmental scale I mainly use at this age level for a child who is particularly difficult to assess for various reasons. It allows the examiner to rely on observation, daily performance and parent/teacher interviews to achieve a complete look at the student if they do not have a solid ability to attend, answer questions, follow directions, etc.
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals - Preschool, Second Edition (CELF-P2 ) I tend to use the CELF-P2 when the PLS-4 is used by another therapist and I need a different assessment for the same child. I find the test to be somewhat long and time-consuming; however, it is very thorough and will give a nice overview of the child's receptive and expressive language skills.
  • The Preschool Language Scale - 4th Edition (PLS-4) I love the PLS-4. I find it easy to administer and I feel that my results are an accurate assessment of the child's skills. I also like that it has a wide age range (birth to 6 years). A fifth version of the PLS was released earlier this year; however, we have not purchased it yet at our school nor was I able to locate it on ASHA's current assessment list at this time.
    *Has anyone bought and/or used the PLS-5th edition yet?  

Each of the four assessments noted above are also found at as well as a complete list of assessments. According to the ASHA website, "This resource is published by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to support practitioners in their efforts to keep their knowledge and skills current in a broad range of administrative and clinical areas." 

Please share the assessment tools you use and prefer!


Here will be long texts about new website

Marcofup Marcofup, , Some post to EPL Marcofup May 19, 2018 3:49 AM
Lusaka MT

I like the REEL for children under 1 -- it seems more thorough and accurate than the PLS-4.  I use the PLS for the kids from 1 to 3.  I do have two concerns about the PLS-4.  First is that it does not place enough weight on a small expressive vocabulary.  I have had a number of children turning two whose lexicon is around 10 words but score in the average range on the test.  Second is the fact that the norms are on six-month intervals.  That is a problem if you have a child who is about to turn that six-month interval.  If you test a child a few days before his/her birthday, you may get an average score; a few days later you would get a score of 70.  If the ranges were smaller, there would not be such a big discrepancy.

For articulation, I really like using the Kaufman Speech Praxis Test for any kids with whom I have any concerns about apraxia.  It gives me not only info about specific speech sound issues but about the breakdown which occurs with utterance length.  That helps get around the problem we have with most artic tests that they only measure a limited single-word set of words.

David Harper November 10, 2011 9:35 PM
Superior WI

I work with birth to 3 population and use the PLS-5, REEL-3, Receptive and Expressive One Word Picture Vocabulary Tests most frequently. The REEL-3 and PLS-4 scores, if parent was an honest reporter of the child's skills, seemed to correlate well. Not so with the PLS-5. A co-worker used both the PLS-4 and 5 on a typical child for practice and found elevated results with the PLS-5. I have found expressive scores much higher on the PLS-5. Dating myself, I also found score inflation in certain age ranges for the PLS-4 compared to the PLS-3.

Kathi, Early Intervention - SLP, Berrien RESA November 10, 2011 6:09 PM
Berrien County MI

For nonverbal children that are difficult to test, I prefer the MacArthur-Bates Communication Inventory.  The drawback is the lack of standardization norms for children over the age of 30 months.  However, the scores are valid if your student falls below the 50th percentile for children in a younger age group.  I am not a fan of the DAYC, or the REEL, the standard scores do not seem reliable or valid (and overestimate the student's abilities).

I enjoy using the PLS-5--the reordering is more convenient and scores seem reliable.

Lori November 10, 2011 3:04 PM

%0d%0a%0d%0aI have found that it take a little longer to administer the PLS-5.  The scores do tend to fall a little higher than on the PLS-4.    That is significant for our state.  Our cut off score is 77.  We have many children that fall in the 75- 77 score range.  A couple of points bump upwardward puts them out or the range for certification.  I do think this is actually a reflection of how children are fuctioning overall in today's society.  I don't think familes take as much time to verbalize with their children and develop those good communication skills.  When norming an evaluation instrument, unfortunately  we are going to see a drop in skills for the general population of students that will be reflected in the norms..    Many students that we served in the past will no longer be in services.  As states raise standards this is going to shift more responsibility to early childhood classrooms to develop vocabulary and communication skills for thier students.

KS Savage, SLP - SLP, Schools November 10, 2011 12:11 PM

I have found the REEL-3 to be a helpful tool for children under age three who are also difficult to test.  It relies on parent interview and is easy to administer


Maggie, SLP November 10, 2011 11:33 AM
Columbus OH

I have been very displeased with the PLS-5. Many of the test items taken from the PLS-4 have been organized into older age brackets (e.g. labeling simple nouns in books starting ages 3:0-3:5). The test also seems to be missing my patient's weakness for limited expressive vocabularies between 18months-30 months.

Megan Hegney November 10, 2011 10:46 AM

We have the PLS-5 and when using it on children going on 3 years old we are finding that they score average or only mildly delayed in Expressive Communication even if they have very few words. In our state that means the child with strong receptive skills would not score low enough to qualify for services in the schools. This was not our experience with the PLS-4.  Is anyone else finding the same thing?

Sarah, SLP November 10, 2011 9:06 AM

I've used the PLS-5.  If you are a member of for continuing ed, they have a course that goes over it.  I didn't feel a huge difference with the 5.  They made some changes with the order of the questions, which makes it flow better (e.g., the items with the objects-- like the bear, are grouped better so you aren't jumping the child around as much). They also changed some of the questions and added new ones.   Overall I like the 5 better, but wouldn't necessarily buy it if you have the 4.  

RS November 8, 2011 2:36 PM

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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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