What Happens During an Evaluation

 January 18, 2021

Does the word evaluation sound intimidating to you? If so, you’re like most parents who have never had their child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist (SLP).

But here’s the thing. In reality, there’s nothing intimidating or scary about a speech therapy evaluation. All you have to do is make some preparations, and your therapist will take care of the rest.

Now, we’ve already discussed the preparations you have to make for your child’s speech evaluation at length in an earlier post.

So in this article, let’s take a deep dive into what happens during a typical speech therapy evaluation to ease any anxiety you may have right now.

Part 1: A Quick Screening

Most SLPs start the evaluation by conducting a quick screening that typically involves observing your child, often while they interact with their peers.

During the screening, the therapist tries to figure out whether your child is just a late bloomer or is displaying potential signs of a speech disorder.

If they notice concerning signs of a speech disorder, they will recommend an initial assessment, which is basically an extensive evaluation to determine the type and extent of any speech disorder(s) present.

Part 2: The Initial Assessment

During the initial assessment, the SLP will conduct a series of tests. But before that, they will chat with you about your concerns related to your child’s communication issues. It’s important that you try to be as specific as you can. The SLP may be the expert in their field, but you know your child best and that’s why the therapist will rely on you to provide as many details as possible.

Once the SLP gets all the information they need from you, they will take your child to the therapy room, where the initial assessment begins. This part is generally divided into three main subparts.

1. An Oral-Mechanism Exam

The therapist will begin the assessment with an oral-mechanism exam, which involves checking the organs used in speech sound production for abnormalities, including the lips, jaw, teeth, tongue, palate, and pharynx.

The purpose of this exam is to determine whether a physical factor,  like a short lingual frenulum, is contributing to or solely responsible for your child’s speech deficits.

It’s a quick and non-invasive process that takes no longer than 10 minutes.

2. An Informal Assessment

After the oral-mechanism exam, the SLP will move on to informal assessment.

Now, this part often looks more like a conversation, observation, or playtime than a professional evaluation. But in reality, the SLP uses this time to learn more about how your child articulates words, puts sentences together, and processes questions.

3. A Formal Assessment

Finally, the SLP will perform a formal assessment to test the following skills:

  • Speech sound fluency: Your child will be asked to name a variety of pictures. The therapist, in the meantime, transcribes your child’s speech sounds using phonetics to see if they make any sound errors
  • Expressive and receptive skills: Your child will be asked specific questions to see how well their language skills are developing
  • Pragmatic skills: Different therapists use different tests to assess social language skills at this point
  • Feeding skills: Most therapists give your child foods with different textures to evaluate their feeding skills, including biting, chewing, and swallowing
  • Reading and writing skills: The therapist will ask your child to read a page of a book and then write their thoughts on it to showcase their reading and writing skills

Once the SLP is done with the formal assessment, they will present you with an evaluation report.

Part 3: The Evaluation Report 

After thoroughly testing your child’s speech skills, the SLP will compile all the gathered information and summarize it in a formal report.

The report will contain a brief description of each area of assessment and its findings.

Based on those findings, the therapist will determine if therapy is necessary. If your child does need speech therapy, the SLP will develop a tailored plan for treatment and present you with its details.

We hope the worries you had about your child’s first speech therapy evaluation are now gone. If you still have any questions, our team of speech-language pathologists is here to help.

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