In any line of work we as professionals become accustomed to casually using a set of vocabulary which becomes the norm within our field, but could mean anything to people outside of it. Despite priding ourselves as communication experts, SLT’s too tend to use vocabulary which as a word in itself is understood by clients, but do we really explain the meaning in a practical ‘hands on’ sense so people availing of our services know what to expect when they arrive at the door.
In a series of blog posts we will hopefully dispel the uncertainty around the different types of ‘Speech & Language Assessment’ and explore some of the many phrases we have heard from anxious parents and clients on arrival for initial assessment.
This blog post covers Speech Assessment.
‘I think it’s tongue tie he makes all his sounds incorrect’
As a mother, and I’m sure those of you who are mothers would concur, we eagerly await that first ‘mama’ from our babies, after all we have carried and nurtured them for 9 months, endured the throws of labor, the nursing, the multitasking and the very least we deserve is to be the first word on their lips….and here it comes.... ‘dada’!!
Not taking from the fact that yes you Dads have equally as much right to get first dibs but did you know that nature is actually against us moms due to the fact that speech sounds develop in a particular pattern with /d/ being an easier sound than /m/.
While ‘dada’ may not have come first in many cases, what is important to know is that speech sound errors are more often ‘developmental’ as opposed to ‘structural’. What I mean by this is that most speech difficulties are due to a delay in the development of particular sounds, as opposed to there being a problem or deformity with the actual oral structures (tongue, lips, palate, teeth). And with developmental speech acquisition, not all sounds are expected to arrive together, with some sounds still developing up until age 7.
Of course there are some speech difficulties that result from structural problems e.g. cleft lip or palate, and in extreme cases tongue tie, so part of all speech assessments involves completing an oral motor examination which looks at the structures as well as the range of movements to determine if difficulties are due to possible motor/coordination difficulties when producing sounds.
A range of standardised assessments are used to complete a speech assessment. Most speech assessments involve presenting a series of pictures for the child to attempt to name. Assessments are compiled so as to elicit each sound in the speech sound system up to three times across the position of words i.e. assessing a single sound at the beginning, the middle and the end words.
The assessment is scored and analysed to determine if there is a pattern of the same errors (phonological processes) which too have a developmental pattern. The therapist measures the presenting errors against typical development to determine if there is a delay in comparison to their peers and identifies the process/sound to target in intervention.
Many adults also require speech assessment, which can be affected following brain injury, stroke and head and neck cancers. Again, assessment looks at the causative factor e.g. motor/coordination difficulties or structural changes following surgery and appropriate intervention is determined by this.
Check out our website for further information and how to book a speech assessment.
Claire & Suzanne