Small Talk: Identifying communication problems in maltreated children Academic Article uri icon


  • Development of speech and language is rapid in early years, yet if developmental problems in speech and language are not addressed they are likely to continue and impact negatively on a child's overall development and their life trajectory. Children who have experienced abuse and or neglect are particularly vulnerable. The aim of this study was to develop a tool to assist in identifying a child's need for assessment by a speech pathologist so that there could be early identification of problems. A culturally sensitive tool was developed to be completed by the child's carer included questions on language, speech and hearing, voice, fluency, understanding sentences, vocabulary and expression. Sixty-five children aged between 4 and 8 years, who had experienced abuse and/or neglect participated in the study. Fourteen percent were Aboriginal. A speech pathologist undertook an assessment for each child and the results were compared with the information on the Small Talk tool. The Tool was found to be high in sensitivity but low in specificity, requiring further refinement. However, it has the potential to assist non speech pathologists to identify a child's need for speech and language assessment with the findings identifying the Tool as promising practice.

publication date

  • 2018