Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Krystal Werfel


Purpose: This study explored past tense marking in oral reading as a clinical marker of specific language impairment (SLI). A School-Age Language Screening Assessment (SALSA) was evaluated to determine whether it can be used to improve the identification of school-age children with SLI. The first aim was to calculate overall accuracy with children with TL and SLI on reading regular and irregular past tense verbs in oral reading of connected text. The second aim was to determine the overall diagnostic accuracy of SALSA.

Method: 96 children with TL and 3 children with SLI (N = 99) in grades 2-4 were administered the SALSA measures in addition to language measures. Each past tense verb was categorized into one of three response types: (a) accurate, (b) incorrect, and (c) unscorable. Performance across each group was compared. Additionally, sensitivity, specificity, and diagnostic accuracy were calculated at multiple cut-points for evaluating the effectiveness of past tense marking on the SALSA measures in children with SLI.

Results: Children with SLI produced fewer correct readings of regular past tense verbs than children with TL. There were no group differences on irregular past tense. A cut-off of 88.1 for regular past tense accuracy yielded the highest sensitivity of 100% and a reasonable diagnostic accuracy of 83.8%.

Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that regular past tense accuracy in oral reading is a promising clinical marker for diagnosing SLI in school-age children. The SALSA measure yielded high sensitivity and reasonable diagnostic accuracy.