Written By: Elissa Murnick M.S. CCC-SLP Certified Speech Language Pathologist, Director Murnick Speech & Language Associates
Once the decision has been made by a child’s parents to pursue a Speech and/or Language Evaluation for their child, many parents are uncertain of the process that will take place. A good Speech Language Pathologist will sit down with a child’s parents or caregivers and explain the sequence of events. Once a referral has been made by the child’s parent, preschool teacher, elementary teacher, Pediatrician or other related professionals, it is time to search for a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) who is licensed by the state they work in and certified by the American Speech Hearing Association (ASHA). There are several different resources available:
- Ask related professionals who they recommend
- Search www.asha.org or www.ctspeechhearing.org (Connecticut Speech Language Hearing Association) to find a therapist.
- Some websites have doctors and therapists listed such as www.wellness.com or www.healthgrades.com
- Check with your insurance company to see if services are covered, how many sessions you have available per calendar year, diagnosis that are included and request a listing of therapists that are in-network and in your area.
. Below are the steps to the evaluation process:
- The Speech Language Pathologist will take a detailed case history which a parent can fill out prior to the evaluation to provide background information for the child’s developmental, social, educational and family history as well as a description of the problem and the child’s overall communication skills.
- The Speech Language Pathologist will conduct a brief screening, usually consisting of informal measures and occasionally standardized screening instruments to determine whether or not there is suspicion of a communication impairment. This can often be done through play, attempting to elicit unstructured conversation from the child to yield a “snapshot” of the child’s overall communication abilities. This screening will determine which areas of communication need further evaluation. A child may be evaluated in one or multiple areas.
- The Speech Language Pathologist will develop an evaluation plan with the parents and describe the tests that will be utilized and the purpose of each one. She will review the length of the evaluation. Depending on the age of the child, his/her attention span and the number of tests to administer, the evaluation may have to be scheduled over multiple sessions. Parents should come with a list of questions and make sure they completely understand the process.
- The evaluation is best conducted without the parent present. It will consist of some informal or descriptive measures such as a language sample, which is a transcription of at least one hundred of the child’s utterances collected over multiple contexts. It is then analyzed to determine a child’s mean length of utterance, use of grammar (i.e. word endings, past tense, etc.) and overall sentence structure and complexity. A child’s pragmatics (social language) can be also be informally assessed by observing a child’s ability to appropriate hold a conversation, use appropriate eye-contact, maintain a topic, etc. Many parent checklists which can be completed prior to the evaluation can be utilized as part of the evaluation process that will provide valuable information.
- Standardized tests will be used to provide information on how the child’s communication skills in one or more designated areas compares with other children of the same age nation-wide. In the schools or in The Birth To Three Program, a child usually has to receive a standard score within a certain range for a true “disorder” to be present and be eligible to receive free services. Standardized tests can be administered in the areas of: Articulation, Phonology, Fluency/Stuttering, Voice, Pragmatics/Social Language, Narrative Language, Phonological Awareness, Expressive Language, Receptive Language, Auditory Processing, Language Processing, Oral Motor Skills and Vocabulary. Standardized tests provide valuable information to a Speech Language Pathologist to determine which areas of communication are truly impaired and based on performance on specific subtests, goals can be developed appropriately.
To view further steps in the Speech and Language evaluation process, visit Evaluations on my website.
Elissa Murnick is a licensed, certified Speech Language Pathologist and the owner of Murnick Speech & Language Associates in Fairfield, CT. She has worked for almost 15 years with children of all ages with a wide range of Speech and Language disorders in a public and private school setting as well as private practice. To find out more information on services provided or to schedule an evaluation, visit www.murnickspeechandlanguage.com