Delayed or impaired language development is a common developmental concern, yet there is little agreement about the criteria used to identify and classify language impairments in children. Children's language difficulties are at the interface between education, medicine and the allied professions, who may all adopt different approaches to conceptualising them. Our goal in this study was to use an online Delphi technique to see whether it was possible to achieve consensus among professionals on appropriate criteria for identifying children who might benefit from specialist services. We recruited a panel of 59 experts representing ten disciplines (including education, psychology, speech-language therapy/pathology, paediatrics and child psychiatry) from English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom and USA). The starting point for round 1 was a set of 46 statements based on articles and commentaries in a special issue of a journal focusing on this topic. Panel members rated each statement for both relevance and validity on a seven-point scale, and added free text comments. These responses were synthesised by the first two authors, who then removed, combined or modified items with a view to improving consensus. The resulting set of statements was returned to the panel for a second evaluation (round 2). Consensus (percentage reporting 'agree' or 'strongly agree') was at least 80 percent for 24 of 27 round 2 statements, though many respondents qualified their response with written comments. These were again synthesised by the first two authors. The resulting consensus statement is reported here, with additional summary of relevant evidence, and a concluding commentary on residual disagreements and gaps in the evidence base.
Australia, Canada, Delphi Technique, Humans, Interdisciplinary Studies, Ireland, Language Disorders, New Zealand, United Kingdom