The big 5 – Can you guess???

I am often asked, if I had to choose, which would be the most important assessments for teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing to routinely use during eligibility and 3-year evaluations.

  • We need to consider the vulnerabilities specific to our students with hearing loss.
  • We need to gather information that will reflect educational performance issues common to our students who may be doing ‘okay’ academically.
  • We need to have assessments appropriate for students using all communication modalities.
  • We also need to be able to speak strongly about the need for teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing and educational audiologists to be important members of the evaluation team who perform assessments specifically tailored to the vulnerable areas of our students.

Biggest areas of vulnerability are: speech perception, listening comprehension, syntax, morphology, phonological awareness, conversational use of language, pragmatic language, ‘Swiss cheese’ language.

Collaborate with your IEP team SLP: Tests need to be chosen that will evaluate syntax, morphology along with receptive and expressive language. Some tests are: CASL, CASLS, TOLD, TACL, CELF-V. Using test combinations to also identify issues with phonemic awareness and pragmatics/social language is important.


1. Determine level of communication access in the classroom – a necessity!

Ages 6-18
15 minutes to administer

Digital audio files – Use from CD or copy to your computer or phone    

Perform all 8 conditions: Close/Far, Auditory only/ Auditory + Speechreading, Quiet/Noise (in +5 S/N classroom noise)

Continuous recording allows you to finish an 8 condition FLE in 10-15 minutes. Uses 5-word HINT sentences. Comes with computer fillable response form and auto calculating summary.

Can be adapted for SimCom/TC users. EVERY student with hearing loss who has useable residual hearing should have an FLE at least triennially.


2. What does s/he comprehend? – typical classroom language

Ages 6-11, Grades 1-6 or Ages 12-18, Grades 6-12
35-40 minutes to administer

  • Subtest A: Main Idea
  • Subtest B: Details
  • Subtest C: Reasoning
  • Subtest D: Vocabulary
  • Subtest E: Understanding Messages
    Focuses on:
  • Summarizing and Sequencing
  • Participating in Discussions
  • Following Directions
  • Understanding Language Concepts
  • Problem Solving and Predicting
  • Listening for Meaning 


Can be administered through amplification (no speechreading) and/or via visual communication/ASL




3. What does s/he comprehend? – deeper language

For ages 5 to 21 years                                                                                        
10 to 20 minutes to administer

OPUS identifies how well a person can integrate and apply knowledge in three structural categories of language:

  • Lexical/Semantic: knowledge and use of words and word combinations
  • Syntactic: knowledge and use of grammar
  • Supralinguistic: knowledge and use of language in which meaning is not directly available from the surface lexical and syntactic information.

SENSITIVE TO FUNCTIONAL COMPREHENSION AND SYNTAX ISSUES. Can be administered auditorilly and/or via visual communication/ASL.

Results of OPUS and the Listening Comprehension Test provide a clear reflection of daily comprehension ability and needs for planning. 

Listening comprehension is a higher order auditory development skill. Evaluation must occur to determine each student’s specific abilities and needs along the hierarchy of auditory skill development (such as evaluating with the SPICE)


4. How well does s/he interact with others? – social language use

 A. If the student was found to have language within average

For ages 4 to 16 years                                                                                          
 15 to 20 minutes to administer

Test of Narrative Language 2 identifies our student’s issues carrying on conversations, relating experiences.

No transcription required.

  • a functional assessment of narrative comprehension and narrative production;
  • a measure of the ability to comprehend and produce three types of stories: a script, a personal narrative, and a fictional narrative;
  • a system for scoring oral narratives that does not require clinicians to transcribe the stories;
  • a normative test with clear, well-organized norms tables and administration procedures, as well as an easy-to-use record form; and
  • a fair and equitable assessment of narrative discourse for all children.


B. If pragmatic language was not evaluated (thoroughly) by the SLP

Obtain information from the classroom teacher about how well the student uses social language.

Both the PLSI and the PLOS are teacher checklists that take 5-10 minutes to complete.

PLSI for ages 5 to 13 years                                                                                                                                        

Students with hearing loss often have a 3+ delay in pragmatic language!

PLSI has 3 subscales:

  • Personal Interaction Skills
  • Social Interaction Skills
  • Classroom Interaction Skills
  • Clear cut-off scores
  • Guidelines for interpretation
  • Useful diagnostic instrument

 PLOS for ages 8 to 19 years                          

PLOS reflects communication behaviors that are part of the natural ebb and flow of the school setting and not related directly to spoken language instruction.

The PLOS measures what the student DOES, not what the student knows, which is often the case with normed pragmatics tests.              

Need something more in depth? Use the Social Language Development Test – Elementary


5. How does his/her precision listening impact knowledge of phonological awareness?

A phonological awareness ‘screener’ is not enough! Precision listening issues cause different issues than other students without hearing loss experience when they are found to have delays.

Ages 3 to 6 years                                                                                           
25 to 30 minutes to administer

The TOPEL has three subtests. All the results of which are then combined to determine the “Composite Score” that ultimately best represents a child’s emergent literacy skills:

  • Subtest 1: Print Knowledge— 36 items; measures alphabet knowledge and early knowledge about written language conventions and form
  • Subtest 2: Definitional Vocabulary— 35 items; measures single-word oral vocabulary and definitional vocabulary (assesses both surface and deep vocabulary knowledge)
  • Subtest 3: Phonological Awareness— 27 items; measures word elision and blending abilities

Results from the TOPEL subtests are useful for documenting a child’s print, oral vocabulary, and phonological awareness ability

Students with cochlear implants have been found to have phonological awareness skills typical of a student with severe hearing loss! Don’t let good speech fool you!

Even students who are deaf visual communication users (ASL) need to have fluency with phonological awareness in order to have adequate reading fluency to keep up with secondary school demands.


Phonological awareness, memory, and the impact of precision listening issues also can be identified by using the Test of Auditory Processing Skills (TAPS-3).

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