Good evening, everyone. Speech-language pathologist (SLP)/momma here. As a SLP in the school system, I often get confused looks from parents when their child is referred for a speech-language evaluation … and that’s completely understandable. With speech-LANGUAGE therapy being often referred to as “speech therapy,” it’s easy to see how many would assume it’s just for kids who have difficulty sounding their sounds correctly.
So here’s why your child may be getting a referral for a “speech evaluation.” It’s not their speech; their language is the concern. Language is how we comprehend the world around us (see, hear, feel, etc.), how we interpret it, and how we respond.
So WHAT are some of the possibilities as to why my child has been referred for a “speech” evaluation?
- social skills (eye contact, being able to tell the difference between someone joking and someone being mean, knowing how to start a conversation or show interest in the other person’s interests…this is just to name a few)
- understanding what someone is asking them to do
- understanding what someone is asking
- knowing what questions to ask
- attention span
- reading comprehension
- being able to organize their thoughts they can either put their words in the right order when speaking and/or communicate their thoughts in a way that allows your child to “get their point across”
- being able to follow directions
- grammar (Are they preschool-school age and saying, “Her wants to do this?” or “Me don’t wan’t that”?)
- problem solving (Would they know what to do if an unexpected situation occurs?)
- reading skills/phonemic awareness (do they know how to rhyme or how to blend sounds together?)
- having a good vocabulary (do they use words the right way or understand words that other kids their age typically understand?)
- being able to write their thoughts down in an organized manner
- auditory processing (Does it seem to take them longer than expected to process a question or comment and then come up with an answer/response?)
- talking in short sentences (A 2 year old is typically expected to put 2 words together at a time, a 3 year old is expected to string at least 3 words together at a time, a 4 year old is expected to speak in short sentences, and by 5 or 6, they should be stringing several words together to form long sentences.)
First of all, just so we’re clear, I’m not all about creating social butterflies. I am, however, about making sure kids have the tools they need in order to establish relationships or socialize. Introvert or extrovert, either type of person can have inappropriate or appropriate social skills. A lot of the skills listed above, improve with age. For example, you can’t expect a 4 year old to have a long attention span.
So if you look at developmental charts, where does your child fall on the developmental timelines?
Please see the following links for language development charts
Overall Language Development Chart: What Does It Mean if My Child Has A Language Delay or Disorder?
Comprehension Development Chart: How to Improve Your Child’s Ability to Answer and Ask Questions
Social Skills Development Chart: How to Improve Your Child’s Social Skills
Attention Span Development Chart: How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span
Some of the reasons above as to why your child may have been referred for a “speech evaluation” is not a comprehensive list. There are many more reasons as to why, but above are the most common. You will receive the “why” during the first meeting (the referral meeting) or if you want to contact the SLP at your child’s school and find out why beforehand, that’s absolutely fine. We love involved parents!!
Here’s something I want you to know about language. If your child is having difficulty in one area, it is most likely that another area of their language will be impacted as well. Language is very interlinked; one area of language impacts another because language is the result of how our different areas of the brain work TOGETHER. For example, if your child is having difficulty following directions in their classroom, it may be because they are having difficulty with auditory processing (how quickly they process and comprehend what is being asked of them) and/or it may be the result of their memory. Are they remembering everything the teacher asked them to do (“Go to your table, get your pencil, write your name on the counting worksheet.”)? It could also be a result of an impaired attention span.
WAIT A MINUTE!!
Don’t get the cart ahead of the horse! Your child may or may not have a language delay or disorder. This will all be determined through observations, teacher and parent interviews, and your child’s performance on the language assessment. If they do, it does not mean they are always going to have a “Language Delay” or “Language Disorder.” That’s what therapy is for. To improve. IF there is a difference in your child’s language that may always be present, therapy is also to teach your child different ways to use their language. As said before, the brain works together. If one area of the brain does not follow the “typical guidelines” of development or functioning, another area of the brain can be trained to take over and/or compensate for the area that is not working as expected.
We ALL have brain/language differences. I am a speech-language pathologist. Someone who works on IMPROVING speech and language functioning. I, however, have a lot of trouble, understanding double negatives. My 5-year old understands them perfectly. “We haven’t never seen a dog that big.”
It takes me a minute to realize the person is saying, “That is the biggest dog I have ever seen!” or “I’ve never seen a dog that big.” I also have a horrible time remembering people’s faces and names; this causes me embarrassment on a weekly basis because I feel like I’m constantly bumping into people that say, “Hey! How have you been? It’s been a while!” I don’t believe I have prosopagnosia (inability to recognize faces) … the point is, no one has the “perfectly wired” brain. FYI: I’m actively working on studying people’s faces and making up little songs to pair with their name and face. The ability to remember their names and face will probably never come natural to me, but I can do auditory (what we hear) and visual (what we see) memory exercises and continue using compensatory strategies (making up songs to go with their name and face) to fill in the gaps.
Something Else You May Need to Look At…
Below are some links based on questions parents commonly have when their child is referred for a speech-language evaluation. Some of the information may answer some of yours!
One Last Thing You Need to Know
You. Have. Got. This.
No matter what they may tell you in that first meeting when they are asking for your consent to evaluate your child or if it is the second meeting and they are telling you, if any, their concerns about certain areas your child is struggling with – YOU HAVE GOT THIS. Yes, the people sitting in that meeting are professionals. They have their speech-language therapy degrees, their teaching degrees, and they have their principalship. But YOU are the parent and YOU sit in the seat of power. The power to give consent and the power to tell your child’s educational team what your goals are for your child. Hold high expectations for them. Hold high expectations for your child. Your child needs you to do that.
I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.
This article was written by a speech-language pathologist, but is not meant to replace a speech-language evaluation or speech-language therapy. If your child is already receiving speech-language therapy at this time, please continue to work on improving your child’s communication at home. Therapy is so much more effective when we all work together with the same goal in mind!