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The CELF®5UK in Practice

by Caroline Burns, Independent Speech and Language Therapist

The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals test is now updated and available in its Fifth Edition with UK Norms (CELF®5UK).

As an Independent Speech and Language Therapist working within the field of Paediatrics, it is especially important within a budget to own tests that can;

a) Be used as a diagnostic tool that is evidence-based and provides accurate and validated findings
b) Identify strengths and weaknesses to inform intervention
c) Be used with as wide a client base as possible

Following purchase and use of the CELF-5UK, I am confident in saying that it ticks all of these boxes.

I was in the fortunate position of becoming familiar with the administration of the CELF-5UK pre-publication within my role as a UK examiner. This involved recruiting and testing participants to gather data on a normative sample and on a smaller clinical sample. 

Brief Case Studies

Since publication of the CELF-5UK, I have selected this test to assess 3 children:

1) a 5-year-old in Reception with a history of expressive and receptive language difficulties;

Based on the assessment scores and analysis along with other evidence, it was possible to diagnose him with developmental language disorder. Most importantly, this meant that he became eligible for SEN support, and classroom adaptations and accommodations were discussed with his teacher. 

2) a 7-year-old with an existing diagnosis of developmental language disorder;

Completing the whole assessment, including the Pragmatics Profile and the Observation Rating Scale in conjunction with her teacher, was helpful to diagnose social communication difficulties, build a language profile, examine individual tests results in relation to the curriculum, prioritise her needs, and set specific language and functional communication targets in the context of the whole school environment.

The growth scale values will be useful to measure change when this child is re-assessed in a year’s time, although caution must be used as these scores are based on the US CELF-5 normative sample.

3) a 12-year-old who had no previous speech and language assessment;

The new Pragmatics Activities Checklist (PAC) in the CELF-5UK was used to assess this child’s social skills.  Asking him to show me how to make a paper aeroplane helped put him at ease. Used together with the Pragmatics Profile, it was possible to determine that he has difficulties with social language. Further diagnostic assessment was then carried out. His receptive and expressive language index scores and social communication scores along with other evidence indicated that he has a language disorder.  

In all cases discussed, the children were able to complete the CELF-5UK following the set guidelines. Children seemed to like the clear structure of the assessment, in some cases ticking off visually when each test was completed. Although it is possible to carry out the assessment within one session, with all these cases due to the nature of their difficulties and attention levels, it was carried out across two sessions within a two-week period.

Practical advice when using the test

Practically, I have learned that it is essential to audio-record certain tests, especially ‘Recalling Sentences’, as it is all too easy to make errors transcribing on-line. A free downloadable recorder App such as ‘Voice Recorder’ is adequate. Using a pencil for these sections when unsure can mean a clearer final transcription. The PAC is easy to complete with some refreshing ideas to provide opportunities for less structured social observations. The Examiner’s manual is accessible with clear and consistent explanations, and when familiar with it the assessment is easy to administer.

Final Summary

In conclusion, the CELF-5UK is a versatile, comprehensive diagnostic assessment battery useful to evaluate and re-evaluate expressive and receptive language skills and aspects of social communication. The CELF-5UK has the benefit of covering a wide age range, expanded now to include young adults up to 21.11yrs.  The research that has gone into its development has resulted in enhanced sensitivity to cultural and linguistic diversity, and with predominantly UK norms on a stratified sample, means the clinician can be assured that the results are reliable.

> Learn more about the CELF-5 and download Technical Reports


Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals® - Fifth Edition (CELF®-5), Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhD, Eleanor Semel, EdD, Wayne A. Secord, PhD, PsychCorp, NCS Pearson, 2013.

Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals® - Fifth Edition UK (CELF®-5UK), Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhD, Eleanor Semel, EdD, Wayne A. Secord, PhD, PsychCorp, Pearson Clinical Assessment, 2017.