If you are having difficulty understanding your child, you might want to consider a speech-language evaluation. An evaluation is a normal step to pursue when parents or caregivers suspect difficulty with communication.
Ask your pediatrician for a referral to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) - a professional who diagnoses speech and language difficulties. An evaluation will include the following:
- The SLP listens to and watches your child and will use a formal articulation test to record sound or phonological errors, as well as gather a speech sample to provide further clinical analysis.
- An oral mechanism examination is also done to determine whether the structure and function of the mouth are adequate for speaking. This involves looking in your child's mouth and observing the accuracy and coordination of the movements of the articulators (jaw, lips, and tongue).
- An assessment of a child's language skills is also typically completed at this time through standardized testing and analysis of communication behaviors. Both receptive and expressive language are assessed to the fullest extent possible. Receptive language refers to your child's ability to understand, follow directions, etc. Expressive language refers to your child's ability to use language to convey wants, needs, and ideas.
- The results of the evaluation will provide an overall view of how your child is communicating, which skills are emerging, which skills have been mastered, and, possibly, areas of struggle. When the assessment reveals that your child may need therapy to improve speech sound production, the SLP may recommend group or individual speech therapy sessions. The frequency of sessions (weekly, every other week, twice a week) will depend on your child's needs.
- Speech-language pathologists provide treatment to improve articulation (pronouncing sounds correctly) and phonological processing (errors with sound patterns) problems. Articulation treatment will involve demonstrating how to produce the sound correctly, learning to recognize which sounds are correct and incorrect, and practicing sounds in different words. Phonological process treatment will involve teaching the rules of speech to individuals to help them say words correctly and decrease the use of rule-based errors. All therapy requires a team approach with families to ensure that new sounds and patterns are carried over and generalized to all environments.
Find out how to prepare for an upcoming speech-language evaluation.