By: Dana Fensterman, MA, CCC-SLP

Do you have questions regarding your child’s speech/language skills, but don’t know what to do next? A screening might be the perfect place to start.

A speech/language screening is an SLP’s brief first glimpse of a child’s speech and language skills. It is used to help SLPs to determine whether there are enough questions regarding a child’s communication skills to warrant further speech/language services.

A screening gives an SLP an informal first impression of a child’s speech and language skills. It allows therapists to make recommendations regarding whether a child could benefit from additional speech/language services. A screening is not meant to diagnose a child, but only to give enough information to make recommendations regarding next steps to best support the child.

A speech/language screening typically takes about 15 minutes in total and can take place in person or virtually. The SLP will ask the parent/caregiver for basic background information, including their primary questions or concerns, and any history of particular importance. The SLP will most often work directly with the child. Depending on age, a number of different activities may be used. A child might be observed in play, engaged in conversation, or asked to point to pictures, follow directions, or answer questions about pictures or books. The SLP might observe a child’s articulation skills (production of sounds at the word or sentence level), expressive and receptive language, pragmatics (social skills), voice quality, and/or fluency (continuous rate at which a child speaks) skills during a screening. The SLP may communicate impressions to a parent verbally or provide short written notes. There will be no diagnosis made following a screening, no standardized scores given, and no detailed evaluation report provided, only recommendations for the next steps. Recommendations that may follow a screening could include: a full speech and language evaluation, ongoing therapy, or parents to continue to monitor skills and re-screen or evaluate at a future date if concerns persist.

What is the difference between a screening and an evaluation?

While a speech/language screening is a brief overview of a child’s speech and language skills, alternatively, a speech/language evaluation is an in-depth assessment of a child’s skills. It could take 1-2.5 hours in total. A similar combination of activities is used, including formal and informal procedures, tailored to your child’s specific needs. Activities for an evaluation could include parent interview, various standardized tests, observation of child’s play skills, and evaluation of a child’s conversational and/or narrative language skills. Standardized scores are often provided, as well as a detailed report including the child’s strengths and areas the child would benefit from support as well as recommendations.