Speech and Language Assessment

Written by Kerry Main


Having a speech and language assessment can be a daunting decision for a parent. It can be difficult to decide whether it is the right time to schedule an assessment or whether you should hold off.  Sometimes having an assessment completed by a professional can give you peace of mind and also provides you with an opportunity to clear up questions you have.

In terms of ‘typical development’ there is a great variation in what is normal and every child is different. However as a general rule the following applies:

At 18 months: refer if there is no babble or attempts at words heard and there is no eye contact.

At 2 years: refer if there are no or very few words used (i.e. less than 10), little pretend play emerging, no apparent understanding, and only a few clear sounds heard

At 2 and a half years: refer if they cannot follow simple instructions (e.g. Put the brick in the box), if they are not linking 2 words together (e.g. Mummy up, more milk etc) or if they are not being understood by mum/close family.

At 3 years: refer if they are having difficulty following instruction that contain familiar vocabulary, they are not able to hold a simple 2 way conversation, they are only using single words (not linking 3-4 words together) or if they cannot make themselves understood or are substituting/omitting several speech sounds.

At 3 and a half to 4 years: refer if they are not able to follow instructions that contain complex instructions including colour, size, prepositions etc, if they echo what is said to them, they have an unusual word order in sentences, they are not using utterances of 4 or more words, if they continue to have speech sounds missing in their talking and are not easily understood by others.

Whilst a delay in speech and language development might be just that, it’s important to seek appropriate professional advice as it may be an underlying speech and language disorder which requires early intervention.

Some of the signs that your child may require a speech and language assessment include the following:

1) Your child does not following instructions.

2) Your child does not respond appropriately to questions.

3) Your child only has a few single words and they do not continue to acquire new words.

4) Your child is unclear/unintelligible to others.

5) Your child has persistent dysfluent talking/stammering beyond 4 years.

Here are some things you can do to help your child improve the clarity of their speech sounds and also to support development of their language skills:

1) Read Read Read!! Enjoy books with your child! Interactive touch & feel books are great for early vocabulary development, lift the flap books are super for toddlers and rhyming stories are helpful in developing children’s phonological (pre literacy) awareness/skills.

2) Name, label & model everything!! Children need to hear words lots of times and in different contexts before they are learned. If they point to something, name it!

3) Reduce the number of questions you ask your child!! If they are playing try commenting instead, e.g. If they are playing with teddy and having a picnic, instead of asking your child ‘what’s teddy eating?’, say ‘teddy is hungry…’.

4) Give your child time – they might need more time than you think to answer questions or follow instructions.

5) Encourage all modes of communication!! Acknowledge all attempts that your child makes to communicate – showing you, gesture, facial expression as well as verbal language.

 

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