You feel that your daughter should be speaking in longer sentences. Your son’s teacher sent home a note telling you that she’s concerned about his listening skills. Your sister can’t understand your daughter talking on the phone. Should you get your child evaluated??
Here are some actions to consider when you find yourself contemplating a speech-language evaluation.
INSPECT YOUR CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT:
Children go through many developmental stages during the first years of their life, during which errors are a normal part of speech and language development. It can be helpful to refer to charts that outline what typical children are able to do at various ages.
Listening and Speaking Skills Expectations by Age (birth to 5 years):
SEE YOUR PEDIATRICIAN:
Your pediatrician should be able to provide you with some information about where your child’s speech-language skills should be. They can also conduct or refer for a hearing test and provide a referral and/or prescription for a full speech-language evaluation if necessary.
It may help to speak with a speech therapist to share your concerns, and get her/his opinion on what actions to take next. Even if an evaluation isn’t recommended, they may be able to offer you some ideas for things to do at home to help support and develop speech and language skills.
Some schools, counties, and clinics offer free screenings that are geared toward identifying children who would benefit from receiving a full speech-language evaluation.
There are many benefits of a full speech-language evaluation. In most cases, they provide standardized norms that let you know where your child’s skills are compared to national norms. That is, they tell you if their speech-language skills are within the average range or not. They also provide a big picture of a child’s current speech-language profile, including strengths and weakness, which can provide useful insight to help inform what sorts of strategies may work best for them at home and school. Evaluations also provide baseline information, and re-evaluations can be used to track progress.
Trust your instinct. If you are concerned about your child’s speech-language development, it is recommended that you pursue one or more of the actions above. Early detection leads to early treatment, which can be significant in a child’s response to therapy. At our clinic, we have an Early Detection Program, through which we provide free speech-language screenings, results, and recommendations.
Hope this helps provide some ideas or direction for someone who is in deliberation mode. What sorts of questions do you have about the evaluation process?
Sarah Michael, SLP – National Speech/Language Therapy Center