The Flemish Sign Language Visual Communication and Sign Language Checklist

Until recently, no (standardized) assessment was developed in Flanders (Belgium) to measure and document the Flemish Sign Language (Vlaamse Gebarentaal, VGT) skills of deaf children. The Flemish Sign Language Visual Communication and Sign Language checklist (VGT VCLS checklist; Wille, 2018) is a translated and adapted assessment based on the original ASL assessment. For more information on the original ASL VCSL checklist by Simms and colleagues see the relevant article (Simms et al., 2013), the related webpage and a summary on this website.

The VGT VCSL-checklist is intended to measure the visual communication and early VGT milestones. It focuses on deaf sign-exposed children from birth until two years of age, as these early years of life represent a period of crucial importance for the development of communication skills.

The main objective of this VGT VCSL-checklist test adaptation process was to provide the thorough and effective foundation for the ongoing standardization process.


Method: The developers of the original ASL VCSL-checklist did enclose these crucial early communication and language milestones. A group of sign language linguists, and a local steering committee assisted in the adaptation of the checklist to the Flemish context. Changes were made in the original checklist and items were added based on a detailed linguistic analysis of the VCSL-checklist (see Wille et al., forthcoming).


Initial validation: After attaining a new custom checklist, a pilot study was carried out to ascertain its effectiveness. On the basis of the adapted VGT VCSL-checklist, the visual communication and sign language skills of 3 sign-exposed deaf children of deaf parents, 3 sign-exposed deaf children of hearing parents, and 4 monolingually Dutch raised deaf children of hearing parents was assessed. As it is generally known that non-native signers will predominantly benefit from sign language assessments and close language monitoring, it was felt important to compose a mixed participants’ group for this pilot study. It was hypothesized that if the adaptation were successful, three different developmental patterns – i.e. a native, early and not sign-exposed pattern - should emerge according to the deaf children’s linguistic input. A high degree of agreement was found between the milestones mastered by the deaf children of deaf parents and the ASL VCSL-item sequence, and three different developmental patterns were identified. This, and especially the differences found between the three cohorts demonstrate the applicability of the newly developed VGT VCSL-checklist. The linguistic adaptations made and the pilot study’s findings secure the applicability of this VGT VCSL-checklist. The checklist is found suitable for further research and as a diagnostic instrument it can be subjected to the process of standardization.


Standardization: the standardization of the checklist is on going. The checklist is currently used at the different home counselling services in Flanders. At the moment, the VGT VCSL-checklist can be used for research, and intrapersonal diagnostic assessment (measuring a child’s individual language growth over time) until standardization of the checklist takes place.

Strengths: (1) The assessment includes the early developmental milestones of VGT signing children and (2) it is straight-forward to administer. Weaknesses: (1) The checklist is not yet standardized and (2) no web-based version yet.



Summarized by Beatrijs Wille (2019).


For more information about this test, please contact Beatrijs Wille at Gent University, Belgium.