Dynamic Assessment of Narrative Skills for Identifying Developmental Language Disorder in Monolingual and Bilingual French-Speaking Children

Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch. 2024 Jan 11;55(1):130-151. doi: 10.1044/2023_LSHSS-23-00054. Epub 2023 Nov 21.


Purpose: Typically developing (TD) bilingual children usually produce narratives with preserved macrostructure (i.e., narrative scheme) but with impaired microstructure (i.e., language complexity). As for monolingual and bilingual children with developmental language disorder (DLD), they usually produce narratives with both impaired macro- and microstructure. It is therefore difficult to differentiate TD from DLD, on the basis of narrative production, especially in bilingual children. In this study, we examine whether a dynamic assessment (DA) task of narratives, using a pretest–teaching–posttest design, can differentiate TD from DLD, without disadvantaging bilinguals over monolinguals.

Method: We recruited 118 French-speaking children (Mage = 8;5 [years;months]), with one experimental condition in which children benefited from a teaching phase (30 TD, 18 monolinguals and 12 bilinguals; 30 DLD, 15 monolinguals and 15 bilinguals) and one control condition (58 TD, 31 monolinguals and 27 bilinguals), in which children participated in another activity. In the pre- and posttest, children were asked to tell a story based on a series of pictures. During the teaching phase, an examiner asked children 12 specific questions about the story, targeting macro- and microstructural elements. Scores were attributed to the number of macro- and microstructural elements correctly produced and to the number of specific trained elements (TE) that were produced as a result of training.

Results: Scores improved on macrostructure and on the number of TE following teaching for all groups of the experimental condition (TD and DLD), whereas there was no progress in children of the control condition. TD participants and participants with DLD differed on all measures in both pre- and posttest, with no differences between monolinguals and bilinguals.

Conclusions: Our dynamic task led to both improved narrative skills and TD/DLD differentiation, with bilinguals not being disadvantaged. Our study thus supports the existing literature indicating that DA can be used to diagnose narrative deficits in children with DLD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Development Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Multilingualism*