Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are affected by chronic middle ear infection or otitis media from infancy that has a negative impact on development of listening and communication skills. Deficits in these skills are often not detected until school-age when the opportunity for early intervention is lost. Primary health and early childhood workers need screening tools to assist them with detecting the problem early, but there is a scarcity of tools. This study reports the development and validation of a screening tool for detecting communication problems in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The tool, called the Hearing and Talking Scale (HATS), relies on a systematic use of parent observations of communication behaviours of their children in everyday situations. Developed by using a co-design approach, the HATS is culturally and linguistically appropriate for use with parents/carers of young children by front-line workers not trained in speech-language pathology. We validated the HATS by comparing the HATS score of 68 children (46 Indigenous and 22 non-Indigenous children) with their performance in standardised assessments. The accuracy of the HATS was 80% and 81% when compared to the ASQ-TRAK and the Expressive Vocabulary Test respectively. The HATS takes 5 minutes to administer, and is easy to score and interpret. It can be used as part of a standard ear and hearing health check for young children to support early detection so that those with problems can be referred for specialist diagnosis and treatment at a young age.
- parent report
- Hearing and Talking Scale
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
- speech and language