GAPS – Early screening test for Specific Language Impairment & Dyslexia

Have you heard of GAPS? The chances are, the answer is no. And yet it's billed as a highly accurate, easy to administer early assessment tool for detecting dyslexia and other language deficiencies in children.

It was developed by Professor Heather van der Lely, an eminent academic, using a friendly alien character called Bic, as a way of identifying children with language difficulty. It can be given by parents and professionals alike and uses repetition of sentences and non-words to identify children with a weakness in language, at risk of dyslexia or specific language impairment and those in need of further assessment and help.

It's estimated that seven per cent of children have Specific Language Impairment (SLI) while ten per cent of children are estimated to have dyslexia. That's a lot of people at risk of not reaching their full potential if they don't get access to the help they need. The GAP test is designed for children between the ages of 3½ and 6½ and can be completed in as little as ten minutes to assess grammatical abilities and pre-reading skills (phonology) using standardised scores.

50% of children with Dyslexia have (undiagosed) Specific Languge Impairment; and 50% of children with SLI have Dyslexia too so these childre really need to be identified and helped so that their life chances are not limited by these problems.

Professor van der Lely's aim is that all children in the UK will be tested prior to or when they enter school to try to ensure that any child with language weaknesses or impairment or at risk for dyslexia is identified.

However, since the test was launched in 2007, it has only been adopted by a minority of schools despite the test costing just £25 for professionals whoa re provided with 25 forms.

Obviously, once a test is carried out and a child has been identified, something then needs to be done about it. The problem here is that there is a lack of speech and language therapists in the public sector with more and more turning to private work. This is not, of course, a reason not to do the test in the first place so if schools are not taking it up, then perhaps parents who suspect that their child has an issue with language learning might want to order the test for themselves.

The Parental version (with 5 forms) costs £50 and Professional version (with 25 forms) costs £65. Thereafter forms only cost 80p each per child to test.

You can see a validation study of the system here. To find out more about GAPS, visit the GAPS website.

Tania Tirraoro

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