Speech and Language Evaluations

Your child’s speech and language evaluations are a measurement of their communication skills, including speaking, listening and social language abilities. A hearing test is also part of any speech and language evaluation. Formal and informal tests and observations are a part of the evaluation and help the clinician form judgments about how your child performs compared with other children the same age on tasks such as:

  • Understanding and use of different words
  • Correct use of words in correctly formed sentences
  • Use of language for different purposes
  • Pronunciation of speech sounds
  • Physical ability to produce speech
  • Voice quality
  • Fluency or smooth flow of speech

Communication Skills Assessment

The communication skills assessment is performed by a clinician and evaluates abilities including:

  • Receptive vocabulary: understanding words
  • Expressive vocabulary: using words
  • Receptive language: understanding directions, changes in meaning that come from different sentence structures (e.g., "Mother kissed the baby" versus "Mother is kissed by the baby") and age-appropriate stories
  • Expressive language: expressing ideas using age-appropriate sentence structures (e.g., verb tense, pronoun usage) to make requests and tell stories
  • Pragmatics or social language: mastering the rules of social language including:
    • Using language for different purposes (e.g., greeting, informing, demanding, promising and requesting)
    • Adapting or changing language according to the needs or expectations of a listener or situation (e.g., talking differently to a baby than to an adult, giving enough background information to an unfamiliar listener or talking differently in a classroom than on a playground)
    • Following rules for conversations and narratives (e.g., telling stories, recounting events of the day) including taking turns in conversation, introducing topics of conversation, staying on the topic and using nonverbal signals in conversation (e.g., facial expressions and eye contact)
  • Auditory memory: remembering what is heard
  • Auditory discrimination: hearing small differences between words (e.g., sing/sing versus sing/wing)
  • Word finding: thinking of words to use to form clear, concise sentences
  • Articulation: using speech sounds and clarity of speech
  • Voice: differences in voice quality, pitch and volume
  • Fluency: repeating or prolonged sounds and words, hesitating and using fillers such as “um” and “uh”

During the assessment, the clinician will conduct an oral peripheral examination to evaluate speech motor skills. This includes observing your child’s face, lips, teeth, tongue, palate, and throat. It also includes observing how well your child works in such activities as feeding, moving the tongue, moving the lips, or making alternating lip and tongue movements rapidly.

Informal tasks will also be a part of the evaluation. These tasks can include talking with your child, having them discuss pictures, answer questions and tell simple stories. If your child is an infant or toddler, the clinician observes how they play, how they use objects and toys, and how well she understands words and requests.

Tips for Growing Good Communicators

  • Always look at your child when speaking to them
  • Sit or stoop down so you can look into your child’s eyes and encourage them to do the same with you
  • Choose a space for talking that is removed from the distractions of TV, siblings, or groups of children or adults who are talking or playing loudly
  • Use positive statements
  • Try to avoid the words "no", "don't" and others which can cause a strong reaction
  • State expectations clearly and instruct expected behavior by saying “I need for you to _______,”  “Now it is time for ______” or “This is a time when __________.”
  • Speak in a soft, calm voice
  • Speak in short sentences and pause between phrases of longer ones to give your child time to understand the entire message (e.g., “You need to finish your worksheet, (pause) so we can go outside and play” rather than “If you don’t finish your worksheet, you can’t go outside and play.”)
  • Ignore and remain neutral when disruptive or negative behaviors interrupt communication
  • Calmly state expectations and give a clear choice between self-controlled behavior and loss of privilege
  • Praise eye contact, speaking softly and other good communication behaviors as they occur to ensure that they become a habit (e.g., say “I like it when you look at me” or “You remembered to tell me in an inside voice.  That was really nice.” 
  • High fives and a smile are good rewards for positive listening and talking
  • Listen and let your child know that what they have to say is important to you 
  • Thank your child for sharing feelings and ideas
  • Smile, praise and be a good role model
  • Positive, respectful communication requires practice, but it’s well worth the time and effort
  • Have fun talking with your children

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