Language outcomes for children receiving support through the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Early Intervention programme (UNHSEI): Developing a protocol for aggregating the data

Mr Mark Douglas1, Mrs Jan Wilson2, Mrs Sally  Robinson2

Ministry of Education Learning Support NZ, Auckland, New Zealand, 2Ministry of Education Learning Support NZ, Hamilton, New Zealand

The UNHSEI programme is a joint Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Education (MoE) initiative. The Monitoring Framework was developed to ensure transparency and accountability around programme outcomes. This framework provides standard indicators for monitoring the effectiveness of, and guiding improvements to, the UNHSEI programme. One of the indicators which the MoE reports on is children’s expressive and receptive language development between four years six months and five years of age. This age range for assessment is important as it follows a significant period of early intervention. The individual outcomes guide each child’s transition to school plan and may be used to help determine the support required for school-based services.

Initially a trial was undertaken in the Central North Ministry of Education (Learning Support) region to identify preferred language assessment tools, to develop related language level indicators and to establish a consistent method of recording and collating data across districts.

During a two year period beginning March 2014, thirty four children reached the target age-group of four years six months to five years of age. The majority of children were assessed using the agreed tools; the CELF-P2 or the PLS-5 along with a Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) derived from language samples. The protocol allowed for the use of alternative tools as appropriate. Sixteen children (47.1%) presented with language levels within six months of their chronological age. Eighteen children (52.9%) presented with language levels that were delayed six months or more. Factors contributing to a significant delay were identified.

At the start of 2017 the protocol was implemented nationally. Although no longer a trial, evaluation of the tools is on-going.

In 2015 and 2016 the Central North region trialled extending the protocol to include appropriate assessment tools for children at three years of age.


Mark Douglas is the Practice Leader for services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Ministry of Education (MoE) Learning Support.  Mark has experience as mainstream classroom teacher, a teacher of the deaf, as well as many years in the role of an Adviser on Deaf Children (AoDC). AoDC work closely with parents and caregivers, the family around the child, and with other specialists.