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What to Expect at Your Child’s First Speech Evaluation

Is your child’s first speech evaluation looming on your to-do list?

If so, there are a few things you should know and a few key items you should pack to ensure everything goes smoothly.

First off, you should know that your child’s visit to the speech-language pathologist (SLP) will consist of two main parts: a parent interview and testing. During both parts, you will be asked a couple of questions for which you should have answers prepared/compiled before arriving.

Let’s discuss those questions and everything else you can expect at the evaluation in depth, so that you can make the most of your child’s speech evaluation.

Part 1: The Parent Interview

The SLP will start the session by asking you some questions about your child’s history and your concerns about your child’s speech development.

Since you know your child more than anyone else, the SLP will rely on you to provide as many details as possible. The information you provide will be vital to shaping the SLP’s understanding of your child’s communication, and any factors which may be influencing his speech development.

During the interview, the SLP will ask questions regarding your child’s medical history, developmental milestones, communication concerns, and communication strengths.

Let’s discuss each one of these in a little more depth, shall we?

Medical History

Typically, the SLP starts an interview by asking questions about your child’s medical history. 

If you want to be prepared for those questions, you should take some time before the visit to write down as much of the following information as you can:

  • History of ear infections.
  • Complications during birth or during pregnancy.
  • Family history of speech, language, learning, or hearing issues.
  • Results of newborn hearing screening and most recent hearing screening.
  • Names and contact information for your kid’s pediatrician and any other specialists he has seen, including any previous visits to a speech-language pathologist.

Developmental Milestones

Besides medical history, your SLP will ask questions about your child’s developmental milestones. So you should recall and write down the time when your child first:

  • Sat up.
  • Walked.
  • Babbled.
  • Crawled.
  • Said his first word. 
  • Spoke his first sentence.
  • Said his first two-word combo.
  • Said “mama” or “dada” for the first time.
  • Said his first words besides “mama” and “dada”.
  • Started to recognize letters and read his first word.

Communication Concerns

What is the exact reason you’re taking your child to the SLP? Take time to note what you or anyone close to the family thinks about your child’s speech and or language issues.

Typically, parents take their kids to the SLP after noticing one or more of the following issues:

  • Stuttering.
  • Unclear speech.
  • Limited vocabulary.
  • Difficulty with following rules of grammar.
  • Difficulty combining words into sentences.
  • Limited ability to interact socially with peers or adults.
  • Voice issues, such as a nasal, raspy, breathy, or hoarse voice.

Communication Strengths

Lastly, you should also mention your child’s communication strengths. 

Although the therapist may not ask for them, you should make mental notes anyway because they may come in handy down the line during the therapy. 

Here are seven common communication strengths for children aged between one to five-years-old:

  • Recalling stories and events.
  • Using appropriate grammar.
  • Sharing ideas clearly.
  • Understanding humor or sarcasm.
  • Understanding the concept of turn-taking.
  • Having a strong and ever-growing vocabulary.
  • Understanding the difference between who, when, where & what.

Part 2: Testing

In the second part of the evaluation, there will be two types of testing: direct and indirect.

Indirect Testing

Indirect testing may sometimes look more like an informal conversation, observation, or playtime, rather than an evaluation; but what the SLP is actually doing is using this time to learn more about how your child communicates.

Direct Testing

Direct testing is more structured and you can clearly tell that your child is being evaluated. It typically involves communication exercises, such as:

  • Naming items.
  • Answering the SLP’s questions.
  • Pointing to pictures in a testing manual.

The rule of thumb for direct testing is that the SLP continues until the child answers multiple questions incorrectly in a row. So don’t worry if your child isn’t getting every question right.

Children often even have to answer questions that are actually intended for older children before the SLP can stop testing.

Items to Bring for the Evaluation

It’s a smart idea to bring one or two small toys or favorite items of your kid to the evaluation.

Don’t keep the items you brought along in front of your child. Instead, give them to him only when he makes a fuss about the discomfort of being in a new environment.

If there’s an item your kid loves to talk about, you should definitely bring it to the evaluation and give it to the SLP. It can be an ice-breaker for your child’s first interaction with the therapist.

How to Observe and Participate In Direct Testing

During the direct testing, you should sit back and observe quietly until asked to participate.

Typically, the SLP only asks you to participate when he cannot get a particular response from your kid. If that happens, don’t reword the question — say it exactly as the therapist did.

Most questions in direct testing are required to be asked in a specific way, and any rewording of a question can negate the accuracy of the test.

We hope you now have a good idea about what to expect at your child’s first speech evaluation. If you still have any questions, our team of speech-language pathologists is ready to help

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