Measuring MLUs

by Marty
(Australia )

I am currently supporting a preschool collect data on their students’ language. I have collected language samples and am currently measuring the students’ MLUs. I was wondering whether ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses are usually counted. I have found that some students are able to produce phrases of 5 or more words but as they were often asked questions that required yes/no responses, I have found that these responses have skewed the results.


May 01, 2020
by: David Arsanis-M.A., CCC-SLP

MLU=Mean Length Utterance. Best advice is to read up on how to obtain a language sample, and how to obtain the average
sentence length of a language sample. 50 utterances is what
is expected. You can obtain more if you desire. 50 is a good sample. My recommendation is that you do not count the closed end responses, yes/no.Remember do not ask closed ended
questions. If it is information you want to know, like, "do you have a dog?" and the child responds yes or no, do not even bother to put it down just try and obtain 50 open ended questions.

1. Tell me about your house"
2. What kind of work does your daddy do?
3. Tell me about Sponge Bob.
4. What is fun about school?
5. And......... Speech-Hearing Association
will assist you in the proper steps to obtain a language sample.

David Arsanis

Apr 21, 2020
It does count
by: Bridget

That is a good question and does bring up a good point. First of all, all the utterances made by the child do count. However, it sounds like techniques to elicit a language sample may need to be tweaked. It can be very hard actually! Asking yes/no questions will usually elicit a yes or no.

Some strategies for a good language sample are -

1. Collect a sample while playing with a toy a child chooses
2. Ask open-ended questions
3. Don't ask too many yes/no questions
4. Try to comment instead of ask questions
5. Be encouraging/enthusiastic
6. Try reading a book and then having the child re-tell the book
7. Follow the child's lead