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New online tool to assess children’s cognitive and language development

A paper published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health provides new standardised scores for the Parent Report of Children’s Abilities Revised (PARCA-R). The PARCA-R is parent questionnaire that can be used to assess children’s cognitive and language development at two years of age. It has been recommended for use in the UK to screen for developmental delay in children born preterm. A new website has also been launched (www.parca-r.info) with an online version of the questionnaire and a calculator that can be used to obtain the new standardised scores.

The project to standardise the PARCA-R was led by Professor Samantha Johnson and Dr Bradley Manktelow from our Department of Health Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oxford, University College London, University of Warwick and Birmingham University. Anonymised data from over 6,000 PARCA-R questionnaires completed by parents of two-year-old children in three previous studies were used to develop the standardised scores. Anonymised data from three further studies were also used to assess the external validity and the clinical validity of the standardised scores.

Standardisation of the PARCA-R enables the questionnaire to be used to quantify a child’s cognitive and language development relative to what would be expected for his or her age and to identify advanced or delayed development. It is freely available for health and education professionals to use and has been translated into 14 languages, but standardised scores have, so far, only been developed for the original English version in the UK population. As developmental tests can be costly, the PARCA-R provides a reliable, cost-efficient alternative that could eventually be extended for use in low- and middle-income countries. 

Professor Johnson said: "The new standardised scores for the PARCA-R will transform its use as an assessment of development for all children in the general population. Researchers and health professionals can use it to identify children with delayed cognitive and language development at two years of age. The questionnaire and a new online score calculator are available for free from the University of Leicester."

The PARCA-R standardisation project was funded by Action Medical Research.

To access the PARCA-R and score calculator visit the new website at www.parca-r.info

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