What is a Speech and Language Evaluation?
No child comes out of the womb saying “Mom I would like some water please.” Speech development takes time. That’s why hearing their first word is so exciting. Or how about the first time they babble back and forth with other children as if they are having a conversation and you run to get the video camera. And then the more they grow, the more their words and vocabulary take off. But what if your child’s story isn’t following that model? What if they are still hard to understand and they are beginning to get frustrated. What if your child turns 5 and they are still saying “piddy” instead of “piggy” or “leap” instead of “sleep”? You might start asking yourself (and everyone else) if you should be concerned.
Does my child need an evaluation?
A speech and language evaluation is done in order to get a better look at a person’s communication ability, and to detect some of those speech and language skills that are not typically developing as we might expect. These evaluations are done by Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP). Speech and language evaluations look at a variety of areas depending on the concern including: speech sound production, language, social skills, feeding, fluency and voice.
Now remember: each child is different, so the way children develop may be different also. As there are general developmental guidelines we look to, there are a couple ways you can begin to look into whether a speech evaluation would be helpful for your child. After all, you are the expert on your child. The following are some areas you may start to notice about your child:
1. Listen to your child’s speech sounds and language opportunities. By the time a child turns 3-4 they should be using every vowel sound (a, e, i, o , u), and some of the beginning speech sounds (including, p, b, w, m, h, n) in words. They should also be able to say every syllable in longer words (elephant instead of efant). They should be able to name common objects and follow 1-2 step directions. By age 5 children should be able to use most speech sounds (including t, d, k, g, s, f), respond to most questions with complete sentences, and follow 2-3 step directions. By age 6-7 children should be using all speech sounds (including r, l, th), sequencing events, maintaining conversations, and understanding more complex concepts.
2. Check in with your pediatrician. Your child’s pediatrician can give professional advice on whether your child’s communication is developing typically. They will start by assessing for hearing loss by running tests to get formal information and getting a history of ear infections for your child. Multiple ear infections and other diagnosis can contribute to hearing loss. A hearing screening must be done before a speech and language evaluation takes place.
3. Create communication opportunities for your child. Take advantage of routines such as bath time, snack time, or at the playground. For example, while on the playground model speech sounds such as ‘go’ as your child is on the slide or swing. Another example could be to model repetitious phrases like “ready, set, go” all throughout time on the playground. You could use snack time as an opportunity to model names of food items. Practice saying each sound in the name and then segmenting the word together.
It is never too early to get intervention for speech and language problems. If you are concerned or just have some questions, consider looking into a speech and language evaluation because it’s better to be safe by making sure your child is getting all the resources they may need. Contact your pediatrician and a speech language pathologist for additional information.
Written by Mackenzie Wysong, M.A. CF-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist, Delaware Speech and Hearing Center
Resources and References
1. Children’s Health Team (2014). How to Know if Your Child Needs a Speech Evaluation. Accessed September 12, 2018. Retrieved from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-know-if-your-child-needs-speech-evaluation/
2. ASHA: Assessment and Evaluation of Speech-Language Disorders in Schools. Accessed September 14, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.asha.org/slp/assessment-and-evaluation-of-speech-language-disorders-in-schools/
Check out another DSHC blog: More Apps To Stimulate Speech and Language Skills