Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 55 (June 2012), pp. 695-709; doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0148)


Copyright © 2012 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Used by permission.


Purpose: In this study, the authors compared a multiple-domain strategy for assessing developmental age of young children with developmental disabilities who were at risk for long-term reliance on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with a communication-based strategy composed of receptive language and communication indices that may be less affected by physically challenging tasks than traditional developmental age scores.

Method: Participants were 42 children (age 9–27 months) with developmental disabilities and who were at risk for long-term reliance on AAC. Children were assessed longitudinally in their homes at 3 occasions over 18 months using multiple-domain and communication-based measures. Confirmatory factor analysis examined dimensionality across the measures, and age-equivalence scores under each strategy were compared, where possible.

Results: The communication-based latent factor of developmental age demonstrated good reliability and was almost perfectly correlated with the multiple-domain latent factor. However, the mean age-equivalence score of the communication- based assessment significantly exceeded that of the multiple-domain assessment by 5.3 months across ages.

Conclusions: Clinicians working with young children with developmental disabilities should consider a communication- based approach as an alternative developmental age assessment strategy for characterizing children’s capabilities, identifying challenges, and developing interventions. A communication-based developmental age estimation is sufficiently reliable and may result in more valid inferences about developmental age for children whose developmental or cognitive age scores may otherwise be limited by their physical capabilities.