Tool Spotlight: Profiles of Early Expressive Phonological Skills (PEEPS)

Phonological development is strongly linked with a child’s later success with language and literacy. A new assessment releasing this month, Profiles of Early Expressive Phonological Skills™ (PEEPS™) by A. Lynn Williams & Carol Stoel-Gammon, is a quick, convenient, and flexible tool for assessing phonological skills and detecting delays. In today’s spotlight post, get the facts about PEEPS: what it is, who it’s for, why it’s important, and more.

What is PEEPS?

PEEPS is a comprehensive assessment of early phonological skills developed specifically for toddlers 18–36 months. Created by leading experts in early phonological development and speech sound disorders, PEEPS helps speech-language pathologists detect speech and language delays early, so children can receive the intervention and support they need to be effective communicators on track for academic achievement.

Why is PEEPS an important addition to the field?

PEEPS is essential because it’s:

  • Developmentally appropriate. Unlike similar tools, PEEPS is specially developed to screen young children and uses elicitation techniques and vocabulary words that are appropriate for this population.
  • An in-depth assessment of an overlooked skill set. Early phonological skills are often not assessed, even though they affect early lexical development. PEEPS is the tool clinicians need to analyze the key components of phonological development, including phonetic inventory, syllable structure, accuracy of consonant production, and error patterns.
  • An accurate way to identify delays. Because most phonological measures aren’t designed for the young age range, young children may be overidentified as struggling with phonological skills—or a wait-and-see approach is taken with these children, which can delay starting early intervention. PEEPS helps accurately evaluate children struggling with phonological skills, so they can receive support as early as possible.

PEEPS can be used by SLPs to support young children’s communication skills at the beginning of life’s journey, so that through life’s journey they have communicative competence to find purpose, fulfilment, and joy.” --Sharynne McLeod, Ph.D., CPSP, Life Member SPA, ASHA Honors Charles Sturt University, Australia

Who initiates the assessment process, and who administers PEEPS?

The assessment process can be initiated by anyone who has a concern about a child’s speech development. While it’s often the parents/family who are the first to notice a delay, it’s not uncommon for childcare providers, early childhood educators, or a pediatrician to bring the concern to the parents or request a referral for an evaluation. These professionals are often able to identify slower development in relation to other children in their care who are the same age.

While the process can be initiated by anyone, speech-language pathologists must administer PEEPS. SLPs are the ideal administrators because they have specialized training in phonetic transcription, knowledge of typical phonological and lexical acquisition, as well as clinical training on how to interact with and elicit a sample from a young child. PEEPS is not designed to be administered by anyone without this expertise.

How does PEEPS work?

To conduct either the full PEEPS or the screener, the SLP will:

  • Present a stimulus to the child to elicit each word on the PEEPS Word List. The clinician may point to a small toy, a body part or article of clothing, or an illustration in the included board book, A Book of Things.
  • Transcribe the child’s speech production onto the test form.
  • Complete the scoring and summary page to create a profile of the child’s phonological development.
  • Use this profile to help determine if the child is developing within expected limits or displaying delays or red flags that warrant intervention.

What kinds of words are on the PEEPS Word List? How was the list designed?

Given the well-documented evidence that the size of productive vocabulary and phonological development are linked in young children, the PEEPS Word List is specifically designed to include words that are likely to be familiar to young children and to those populations with limited expressive vocabularies. The following desirable features are included in this age-appropriate test for toddlers:

  • Words that are present in the productive vocabularies of young children (18–24 months)
  • Words with a variety of sound classes and syllable/word structures
  • Methods of elicitation that encourage spontaneous productions and also allow for multiple prompts from the clinician or researcher

Because the average lexicon size for a 24-month-old child with typical development is 250–300 words, the range of words that can be included in a test of phonology is limited. PEEPS differs from traditional articulation/phonology tests by including test words that are likely part of the productive vocabulary of young children, which is the primary factor for the word selection.

How long does PEEPS take? Is it difficult to administer?

PEEPS gives SLPs a comprehensive picture of early phonological skills in less than 20 minutes. The kit includes both the full PEEPS assessment (60 words) and a shorter PEEPS screener (20 words) that helps determine if in-depth testing with the full PEEPS is warranted.

PEEPS is also easy to administer. The Examiner’s Manual guides SLPs step by step through the process, and the kit includes access to a helpful video in which the authors clearly demonstrate how to deliver PEEPS.


Learn more about this groundbreaking assessment of early phonological skills, and order your Assessment Kit here!


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