As families and educators looking to support a young child’s growth and development, we understand that you may often feel overwhelmed with how to help your child. Particularly in the early years, children are developing so many skills – running and jumping (gross motor skills); using a straw, knife and fork (eating skills), toileting training and dressing (independent living skills or ‘self help’ skills) as well as early reading skills, sleep development, attachment to caregivers, the list is endless!
Communication skills are, of course, essential for your child to develop. When your child can communicate effectively, they can then interact with the world around them and have their needs met. Interacting with your child is such a wonderful way to bond and is one of the most rewarding parts of being a parent. It is also one of the best ways to ensure your child’s speech and language skills are on track for their age and are continuing to develop. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s speech and language development, the best course of action is to seek assistance, and when you do embark on your speech pathology journey, you will often start with a speech pathology assessment. But how do you know if you child needs a speech pathology assessment and what does an assessment look like? In this blog, I will tackle both these questions and more to help you understand what a speech pathology assessment looks like.
Should My Child have a Speech Pathology Assessment?
We often speak with families and educators about whether a speech pathology assessment is appropriate for their child. There are many reasons for considering a speech pathology assessment including:
- You have concerns regarding your child’s speech and language skills but are not sure what the next step might be
- Your GP has recommended an assessment, either at a routine appointment or following discussions with you
- A health professional such as a Paediatrician, Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist has recommended an assessment
- Your child’s daycare or preschool educator have expressed concerns regarding your child’s communication skills
- Your child may be starting school next year and you would like to investigate their ‘school readiness’ skills
What Does A Speech Pathology Assessment Look Like for You and Your Child?
At A Growing Understanding Speech Pathology, we are passionate about providing a high quality, comprehensive assessment service when we meet with families. We appreciate that children are individuals with their own unique set of strengths and challenges. We aim to explore these within our assessment sessions through gathering information in the following ways:
As parents, you know your child best! We place great emphasis on speaking with you in detail about your child’s speech and language development to date, their medical history, their milestones (e.g. crawling, sitting, walking) and most importantly, their interests.
Lots of Play
Assessments are fun! We have a HUGE cupboard full of toys and games at all three of our locations (Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens). We use these toys as a basis for observing your child’s interests, their play development and their social skills. We also encourage you to bring along your child’s favourite toy or activity to increase that sense of familiarity in the session.
We may use standardised assessments to explore your child’s current abilities in both their understanding of language (receptive language) and use of language (expressive language). Standardised assessments indicate how your child is developing compared to other children their age. The great part is that most of the activities are either play based or completed on a tablet which children love!
Speech Sound Assessment
We use a lot of fun, colourful pictures for this section. We listen to how your child says different sounds when saying both single words and also in conversation.
How Long is a Speech Pathology Assessment?
To gather the required information, we often recommend at least two separate sessions to complete assessments. We usually limit each session to 60-90 minutes. This ensures your child can remain engaged and we can gather the most accurate information relating to their development. All children will respond differently in an assessment, and that is ok. We are always willing to adapt our methods, timing and even resources to ensure your child has the best experience.
What Should I Bring to a Speech Pathology Assessment?
We recommend that parents bring anything that makes their child feel comfortable. A favourite toy, game or book is a great way for us to get to know your child. You can also bring along a snack and a drink to refuel during breaks.
We also ask that you bring any reports or other documentation related to your child. This may be assessments from other professionals (such as Occupational Therapists or Physiotherapists), hearing test results or letters from your doctor.
What Happens After the Assessment is Completed?
Following an assessment, our speech pathologist will review the information gathered and prepare a report. This report details your child’s strengths and challenges observed during the assessment. We then meet with you for a follow up appointment to discuss this report with you.
There are three possible pathways that can follow from an assessment:
- If you child’s speech and language skills are typically developing: Your child’s speech and language skills may be developing well for their age and will not require any follow up with one of our speech pathologists. You may be provided with some simple, fun, take home activities that you can incorporate into your day to continue to support your child’s speech and language development.
- If your child’s speech and language skills are typically developing but at a lower level compared to other children their age: The assessment may indicate that your child’s speech and language skills are below average compared other children the same age, however their skills are still developing in the appropriate sequence. Families often refer to children with this issue as ‘late talkers’. Your speech pathologist will discuss intervention options and prepare a plan with you to commence therapy.
- If your child’s speech and language skills are not developing typically for their age: The assessment may show that your child’s speech and/or language skills are not developing appropriately for their age. This is referred to as a speech sound disorder or language disorder. Your speech pathologist will discuss intervention options and prepare a plan with you to commence therapy.
So if you’re wondering whether a speech pathology assessment is right for your child or to simply discuss any concerns that you might have, contact our team today. Together we can help your child continue to grow and prosper. And remember, the earlier you commence your journey, the better.