ELSA-T Administration Manual

ELSA-T Administration Manual

The Eliciting Language Samples for Analysis – Toddler version (ELSA-T) was developed at Boston University’s Center for Autism Research Excellence by Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg and colleagues. ELSA-T is a set of enjoyable play interactions used to collect and measure expressive language in young children with a range of different developmental abilities. ELSA-T is an adapted toddler version of the ELSA, which was created to address the need for expressive language outcome measures for older children. ELSA-T utilizes a naturalistic and play based setting that aims to maximize the child’s opportunity to speak across a variety of fun and interactive activities. These activities fall into the most commonly used language elicitation contexts: conversation, play, and narrative to give children multiple, diverse opportunities to produce language. ELSA-T includes age-appropriate activities and language for young children.


ELSA-T takes between 15 and 25 minutes to administer. Administration time will vary depending on the age and developmental abilities of the child. Activities can be completed in any order. The length of the activity will vary based on the participant’s interest. A complete ELSA-T requires administering all 8 activities and incorporating at least 5 open-ended questions (please refer to the ELSA-T Administration Fidelity section of this manual for specific details pg.11).

Only if necessary, should a caregiver be present during the administration. If caregivers are present during administration, they should be instructed not to interact or speak with their child. If their child interacts with them, the caregiver should direct their child back to the activity.

ELSA-T Materials

ELSA-T Materials kit includes the materials listed below (pg. 3). The materials were chosen based on their ability to facilitate play, elicit verbal comments, and to engage children of a wide age range. The materials chosen are interesting for both boys and girls and readily accessible to anyone wanting to administer ELSA-T.

Cultural Adaptability of ELSA-T

ELSA-T is designed to be a naturalistic play-based activity. Having been developed in the Northeastern United States, some of these activities may not be well-suited for children in different regions and countries. We encourage administrators to adapt the activities in the ELSA-T to make them culturally appropriate. This can be easily done by reviewing the description of each activity to discover which distinct purpose each activity is trying to tap and creating a similar activity that would be more appropriate. We encourage administrators to share their adapted activities with us so that we can provide these adapted manuals to other administrators via our website (www.bu.edu/elsa). You can contact the ELSA-T team at elsacare@bu.edu .

ELSA-T Protocol


  1. Hide and Seek Animals

Description: Hide and Seek Animals is a task intended to elicit descriptions of hidden animals. This is used as a warm-up activity for the individual and administrator. Together the administrator and the child can search for the hidden animals. The animals (bird, dog, cat, hamster, or bunny) were chosen due to their familiarity and prominence in the child’s outside environment. Additionally, the paper animals can be used as prompts for children who may benefit from visual assistance in finding and identifying the animals.

3 Toy Animals
3 Laminated Paper Copies of Toy Animals

Set up and Instructions: Hide the 3D animals (at least 3 of the toy animals) ahead of time. We encourage the administrator to hide at least one animal in a location where the child will not be able to reach it and another in a spot that makes removing the animal difficult for the child. This allows for additional opportunities to elicit language from the child.

  • Use the paper animals as visual prompts to ask the child to “find the match.”
  • If the child is having difficulty finding the toy animal, use the paper animal as a visual guide and move it closer to where you have hidden the animal.
  • If the child is still unable to locate the toy animal, you may verbally prompt them to the location of the animal. We do not want children to be distressed at any point during administration. ELSA-T is designed to be fun and interactive!

Suggested lines:

  • Can you help me find the hidden animals?
  • Where are the animals hiding?
  • What do you see?
  • Do you have a pet at home?
  • Which animals are your favorite?
  1. Apple Falling

Description: Apple Falling Activity is a joint gross motor activity that gives children an opportunity to interact with the administrator by labeling various parts of the tree. This activity is intended to elicit turn-taking between the administrator and child.


  • Paper tree set up: Paper tree, apple, and leaves
  • Paper animals: Owl and Squirrel

Set Up and Instructions:

  1. Hang your paper tree with apples and leaves on a wall. Hide the squirrel behind an apple. Place the owl so that it is peeking out of the center of the tree.
  2. Hold the apples outward and in front of you.
  3. Let the apples go after counting down.
  4. For the 2nd time, wait before letting go again to give the child a chance to request.
  5. Let the apples go another time.
  6. Encourage the child to play with the apples or do the same with the leaves.

Suggested lines:

  • What do you see?
  • What can we do with these?
  • What animals do you see in the tree?
  • How many apples did you pick?
  • Label the parts of the tree

For the full ELSA-T manual please click here:ELSA-T Administration Manual