Receptive Expressive Emergent Language Test, REEL-4, REEL test

The Receptive Expressive Emergent Language Test, 4th Edition (REEL-4) is a valuable assessment that can be used by speech language pathologists to evaluate language skills in children up to 3 years-old.

Speech-language pathologists are responsible for identifying language disorders and addressing them through speech therapy. An important component of the evaluation process involves the use of assessments.

A comprehensive assessment tool provides the therapist with critical information about a child’s language abilities. This allows them to create an individualized treatment plan to address the child’s areas of difficulty.

The first three years of a child’s life are critical for language development. The REEL-4 allows SLPs to identify language impairments during these early years so the child can begin to receive intervention. Research shows that this early identification and treatment leads to better outcomes, in addition to improved adaptive skills and reduced behavioral issues.

Here, we’ll take a close look at the components of the REEL-4, how to administer the assessment, recommendations for integrating the results into Speech Therapy, and more.

Overview of Receptive Expressive Emergent Language Test (REEL-4)

The REEL-4 is a standardized assessment that is designed to evaluate language skills in young children. The assessment consists of two subtests, Receptive Language and Expressive Language. The results of these subtests yields an overall composite called the Language Ability Score.

The REEL-4 also has a supplementary subtest, Vocabulary Inventory Test. This is composed of the Nouns and Expanded subtests.

The assessment is a norm-referenced caregiver interview that is administered individually. The REEL-4 serves as a record of parents’ observations of their child’s skills. Speech language pathologists can analyze the results of the REEL-4 to obtain standard scores, percentile ranks, and age equivalents. This can help them identify the presence of delayed language skills and identify specific areas of strengths and difficulty.

Administration of the REEL-4

The REEL-4 takes approximately 20-30 minutes to administer. The age range for the assessment is birth through 36 months.

The examiner begins the administration at the age range listed in the examiner record booklet that aligns with the child’s age. The examiner asks the parent or caregiver a series of questions about the child’s language skills that increase by age level expectation.

A yes/no response is required by the parent. The parent should answer as “yes” if the child exhibits the skill most of the time, and “no” if the child exhibits the skill only some of the time. The examiner will record the parent’s response on the Examiner’s Record Booklet.

To score the REEL-4, the examiner will total the score for each of the 2 subtests to achieve a raw score. The examiner then uses the REEL-4 Examiner’s Manual to convert this score to a standard score as well as to obtain a percentile rank and age equivalency.

The examiner can administer the supplementary test, Vocabulary Inventory Test, if desired. This will provide additional information about the child’s language as observed or reported by the caregiver.

Population and applicability of the REEL test

According to studies of the REEL-4’s diagnostic accuracy, the assessment is appropriate to be used to assist with differentiating children with language impairments, low-functioning Autism, and developmental delay from children with no exceptionalities.

The REEL-4 can be administered for children with young children who have behavior difficulties or reduced cooperation. Because it is administered through the caregiver’s report of skills, it does not require the SLP to directly observe all of the skills listed.

The assessment can be easily administered across various environments, including both home and clinical settings. The REEL-4 can also be given in person or via teletherapy.

Integration the REEL test with speech therapy

The REEL-4 can be seamlessly integrated into speech therapy. The results offer speech-language pathologists a comprehensive understanding of a child’s receptive and expressive language skills.

SLPs can combine information gained from the assessment to create an individualized intervention plan for a child. The child’s areas of difficulty identified on the REEL-4 can be targeted as speech therapy goals. The child’s areas of strengths should be considered when considering what intervention strategies and techniques to use.

The REEL-4 can be re-administered over time to provide a measurement of the child’s progress and the effectiveness of therapy techniques.

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Limitations and considerations for using the REEL test

As with all assessment tools, the REEL-4 does have limitations to consider. The test relies on a parent report. Factors such as differences in cultural and linguistic backgrounds may affect the accuracy of the parents’ responses. Therefore, there is a possibility that the results may not accurately represent the child’s true language abilities.

However, according to research, parent-completed tools are valid and reliable in the detection of true problems and for arriving at a picture about their concerns. In fact, information obtained through a parent report can provide helpful information about a child’s language skills that may not be observed in a formal testing environment.

SLPs should include other means of assessment into the evaluation, including direct observation and probing of skills.

Training and certification for the REEL test

The REEL-4 should be administered by an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist who has engaged in training with administering this assessment. That includes observation of administration procedures and familiarization with the examiner’s manual and items in the record booklet.

The SLP should also have knowledge and education about typical speech and language development, including the expected milestones. He or she should also be experienced and comfortable conducting a parent interview.

The Receptive Expressive Emergent Language Test - 4th Edition (REEL-4) is a valuable assessment tool that evaluates language skills in children from birth to 36 months. It is administered through parent reporting of skills, and can be easily administered across settings, both in person and over teletherapy.

Speech-language pathologists should leverage the REEL-4 as a helpful tool in assessing and treating language delays in young children. The results provide a comprehensive look at the child’s receptive and expressive language skills, which can lead to early identification and treatment during this critical period.


SLPs can use the teletherapy and practice management software TheraPlatform to complete documentation and billing for speech and language evaluations. Speech Therapists can use TheraPlatform to manage several other aspects of your practice, from financial organization to scheduling. Consider starting with a free trial of TheraPlatform today.


Badawieh, M., Al-Shamsi, A., (2023) . The factors that impact the Speech delay in the first three years of a child’s life, Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 19(1), 13-20; 2023. DOI:

Garibaldi, A., Venkatesh, L., Bhat, J. S., & Boominathan, P. (2021). Relationship between parental report of language skills and children's performance among 3-year-olds: Implications for screening language among preschoolers. International journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology, 151, 110943.

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