Developmental Assessment Checklist for SLN


This checklist for Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT-OP; Baker & Jansma, 2005) has been developed over a number of years at the University of Amsterdam, and is currently used in several schools for the deaf in the Netherlands (Haug, 2008). The checklist and user’s guide are in Dutch but the instrument has been summarized in English (in Kip, 2009).


The goal of the NGT-OP aims to provide a broader view of children’s abilities in Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT), by assessing their general communicative and language abilities. This observation list results in a profile of the communicative and language aspects that the child already has acquired or still needs to acquire.


The target age group for this checklist are deaf children aged 2-4 years old, but it has also been used with children up to 6;7 years old (Visser 2005, cited in Kip, 2009). The maximum age has not yet been determined.


The NGT-OP assesses children’s productive skills. The NGT-OP is based on different checklists assessing (sign) language development and communicative abilities (Jobse, 2002, cited in Kip, 2009) and on the Sign Language Communication Checklist for American Sign Language (Mounty, 1993, 1994).


The entire NGT-OP consists of 30 items divided into eight different linguistic and non-linguistic areas with a varying number of items: (1) non-verbal communication, (2) communicative abilities, (3) general language abilities, (4) phonology, (5) syntax, (6) morphology, (7) perspective, and (8) creative language use.


Table 1: Organization of the NGT-OP (Kip, 2009, p. 10)

I. Non-verbal Communication

II. Communicative Skills

1. Non-verbal receptive skills

2. Non-verbal expressive skills

3. Use of non-verbal means

4. Attention strategies

1. Spontaneous expressions

2. Contact with other people

3. Contact with the teacher

4. Play

5. Being assertive

6. Auditory awareness

7. Communicative Functions

8. Eye-gaze

9. Conversation

10. Stories

III. General mastery of language

IV. Phonology

1. Length of utterance

2. Language comprehension

3. Lexicon and expressive language use

1. Handshape

2. Movement

V. Syntax

VI. Morphology

1. Localization

2. Verb inflection

3. Verb types

4. Non-manual grammatical markers

1. Verb derivation

2. Noun derivation

VII. Fantasy/ Point of view

VIII. Creative language use

1. Fantasy

2. Role-shift

1. Creative language use


The development of the NGT-OP was carried out in three stages: (1) selection of the items (Jobse, 2002, cited in Kip, 2009), (2) user friendliness (Sturm-Faber, 2002, cited in Kip, 2009), and (3) reliability (Visser, 2005, cited in Kip, 2009).


In a study the NGT-OP has been used with a group of deaf children ages 4-6;7 years old and ten different teachers as scorers (see Haug, 2008).


The scorer should be a teacher who has known the deaf child for at least three months, and who has some background in NGT, in order to recognize language aspects of NGT and also to determine the level of the child’s NGT performance (Kip, 2009). However, it is not yet known what the required level of NGT of the teacher should be (Kip, 2009).

The teacher is provided with the checklist instructions and a handbook. The checklist can be used at intervals of six months or more in order to check the child’s developmental progress. The checklist allows three different observation periods on one form (see Figure 1 below). It takes about one hour to read the handbook and another hour to fill out the checklist (Sturm-Faber, 2002, cited in Kip, 2009).

Items indicating development (gradual items) consist of two to four statements which are ranked in their order of acquisition. The development of the items is based on acquisition studies of NGT, but also of American (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL; Jobse, 2002, cited in Kip, 2009). The teacher is required to fill in which of the statements best match the language performance of the deaf child, indicating his or her acquisition of certain linguistic structures (see Figure below). No age norms are yet available for the NGT-OP, i.e. the child’s performance can only be compared with that of other children (Kip, 2009).


Figure 1: Example of gradual items from the NGT-OP (Baker & Jansma, 2005, p. 26)

Localization – Fill in what is applicable, 1), 2), or 3)

(tI, tII, tIII: 3 different points of time to assess Localization)








1) The child refers only to persons or objects that are really present.




2)The child assigns a concrete location (really present persons or objects) to not present referents.




3) The child assigns abstract locations (in signing space) to not present referents.


The selection of the linguistic aspects that should be tested has been based on other (sign) language assessment instruments, i.e. for ASL, BSL, and spoken language and on research on NGT (see Jobse, 2005, cited in Kip, 2009). These instruments target the assessment of communicative and sign and spoken language development of children from 1;6-12;0 years old. Based on these instruments, the items were adapted to NGT.


The instrument has been studied for its usability and validity (Sturm-Faber, 2002, cited in Kip, 2009) and its reliability (Visser, 2005, cited in Kip, 2009). With respect to usability, the NGT-OP is easily to fill out and most items can be observed in the classroom (Kip, 2009). Content and construct validity was established in a study by Sturm-Faber (2002, cited in Kip, 2009), although more research on the validity of the instrument is needed (i.e. the NGT competence of the teacher have an impact on the construct validity). Based on the results of the reliability study, the NGT-OP has been revised. There is also a problem with the background of the class teacher influencing the scoring, and thus with the reliability of the NGT-OP, i.e. their linguistic knowledge, knowledge of NGT, and general motivation. So far, it has not been possible to establish inter-rater reliability in the ideal situation, that is comparing judgements from two different teachers who know the child equally well, have the same knowledge of NGT and are also comparable on other variables. These variables have an effect on the scoring. Norms for the checklist are not yet available.


The test has not been  officially published nor translated into English.


The NGT-OP has recently been used in a validation study with the  Assessment of Sign Language of the Netherlands (TNGT; Hermans, Knoors, & Verhoeven, 2010). Kip (2009) compared the NGT-OP to the TNGT (Hermans et al., 2010) and concluded that both test different aspects of language and communication, and so are complementary.


Strengths of the NGT-OP: (1) It covers many different areas of the child’s language and communicative development, (2) it can be used to track the development in a single child and to compare with other children, (3) it is available and can be used in schools for the deaf, and (4) information on the validity and reliability of the instrument is available.


Weaknesses: (1) the scoring is influenced by the teacher’s knowledge of linguistics and NGT and general motivation and thus has an impact on the reliability, (2) no norms are available, and (3) item development is based partly on research on other sign languages.



Summarized by Tobias Haug (2010).

For further information regarding this checklist, please contact  Anne Baker at the University of Amsterdam.