Parisot, A.-M. et A. de la Durantaye (2005) "How to assess Deaf children's signed production? Conception of a tool to assess phonological skills in Quebec Sign Language", International Society for Language Studies 2005, Montréal.

Ninety percent of deaf children are born in hearing families and only have access to a signed language later in their life (Liben, 1978). In most cases, it is not possible for these children to naturally acquire an oral language. In addition, they are often not provided with the right conditions to acquire a signed language as a first language (Lhuissier, 2000). These children therefore constitute a clientele which needs rehabilitation in terms of language and communication skills.
The tool we are presenting assesses the phonological parameters of signs produced in Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) by deaf children at the preschool level. It has been created by a multidisciplinary team of linguists, speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists, who participated in all the different stages of conception and development of the tool. The goals of this presentation are 1) to discuss the relevance of and the need for assessment tools testing LSQ skills in a rehabilitation context in the province of Quebec, 2) to present a detailed description of the different stages of conception and development of the tool assessing LSQ phonological skills and 3) to look deeper into two aspects of the development process: efficiency and validity.
Why design a tool for speech-language pathologists to test phonological skills in sign language? Speech-language pathologists prevent and treat communication disorders related to problems with hearing, language or speech. Amongst other responsibilities, they may assess and work on children's oral language development. Data on the different stages of normal language acquisition are thus essential for their work. With regards to signed languages, research on LSQ shows that this language has a phonological structure which is different but equivalent to that of oral languages (Miller, 1997; Dubuisson et al., 1999). Speech-language pathologists working with deaf children having LSQ as a first language need to know the acquisition stages of this visual-gestural language in order to treat this population just as they treat hearing French-speaking children. The development of the assessment tool is based on two theoretical frameworks: theories of acquisition and description of signed languages along with theories addressing the methodologies used in the conception of assessment tools for speech-language pathologists. Many studies on the acquisition of signs and their internal structure (Boyes-Bream, 1990; Marentette and Mayberry, 2000; Meier et al., 1998; Siedlecki and Bonvillian, 1997; Parisot et al., 2000; etc.) have shown that handshape, location, and movement could be independent sources of errors in the signed productions of deaf children. If oral and signed languages can be distinguished in terms of phonological production, they do however share common motor principles. Indeed, in both cases it is possible to propose articulatory-based models for the acquisition of phonological elements of the language. The elements we controlled in the conception of the assessment tool of LSQ phonological skills are those usually controlled in assessment tools for the phonology of oral languages (Bergeron, 1997): word frequency, phoneme representativeness along with levels of articulatory and conceptual complexity.
In the first part of our talk, we will present a detailed portrait of the different conception stages of our tool (the choice of lexical elements, the phonological description of the items, the definition of articulatory and conceptual complexity and the tryout of a prototype.) In the second part, we will discuss two problems related to the efficiency of the tool: the actual system of LSQ phonetic representation and the shape and design of the evaluation grid. Finally, we will discuss the notions of fidelity and validity that are to be considered in the conception of the assessment tool.

Résumé court :
This talk present 1) the need for assessment tools testing Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) skills in a rehabilitation context, 2) a detailed description of conception and development of the tool assessing LSQ phonological skills and 3) a discussion on the efficiency and the validity of the development process.