Understanding sounds in language is an essential part of children’s literacy, but this skill is often overlooked. Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a new software tool to assess children’s phonological awareness – or how they process the sound structure of words.
The ATLAS, or Access to Literacy Assessment System, program – the first test of its kind for children with speech and / or language impairments – can help parents, early childhood teachers and para-educators more accurately measure children’s phonological progress with a range of levels of skills.
Research carried out by the MSU ATLAS team, published in the journal Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, has shown the software to be effective when tested with over 1,100 children aged 3 to 7, with and without speech and language impairments.
“Phonological awareness is one of the best predictors of the development of literacy skills later in life,” said Lori Skibbe, professor of human development and family studies at MSU and lead author of the study. âIt can include rhyme, recognizing how sounds come together to form words, and understanding how words can be broken down into sounds. “
Skibbe explained that the software, which is available for free, is adaptive, which means that the test items are unique for each child. Children can take the test without speaking, and the test is shorter than many others in the field. ATLAS is also useful for many children with disabilities, including those with speech and / or language difficulties.
âFor children with primary speech and / or language impairment, it can be difficult to meet educational literacy goals,â Skibbe said. However, the ATLAS software allows children to demonstrate what they know, even if they have difficulty answering questions verbally. This ensures that their skills are accurately assessed and that they receive the right support to keep them. on track to meet literacy milestones. “
ATLAS was made possible by a grant of $ 1.4 million from the Institute of Education Sciences.
MSU professors Ryan Bowles and Sarah Goodwin, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, collaborate with Skibbe on ATLAS, and Gary Troia, Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education of the Faculty of Education of MSU.
(Note to media: please include the following link to the study in any online media coverage: https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-19-00006)