Does my Toddler Need a Speech Therapy Evaluation?
Whether it was recommended by your pediatrician or you just feel like your toddler’s language skills aren’t quite where they should be, a speech evaluation by a Speech-Language Pathologist is the first step in helping your child. Speech Pathologists specialize in communication and understand speech and language development. An evaluation by a Speech-Language Pathologist will help you figure out why your child’s language skills are behind and how to help them. They will also help you determine if your child would benefit from speech therapy.
To help your therapist gather the most information during the assessment, here are five things you can do to get ready for your evaluation:
- Prepare your toddler: Knowing what’s going to happen is the number one way to decrease anxiety in children. At this age, most assessment tasks are play-based. Let your child know someone is going to come over and “play” with them. If possible, you can also show your child a picture of your therapist from their website. That way your child knows who is coming and what to expect.
- Make a “word list”: Your therapist will ask you to estimate how many words your child is using. It helps to keep a list of the words you hear your toddler say leading up the evaluation. Make sure to include your child’s “versions” for words if they are using them consistently (ex: “Woof Woof” for dog). This will provide a better picture of what words your child is using. It will also serve as a helpful progress monitoring tool of your child’s vocabulary.
- Have a snack and drink ready: Depending on your concerns, your therapist may want to watch your child eat and drink. Watching your child’s mouth and tongue during eating provides helpful insight on how the structures are moving and your child’s oral motor skills. Your therapist may want to see what your child is typically drinking from and watch your child swallow to make sure their tongue isn’t “thrusting” forward.
- Observe how your child communicates: In addition to noticing any words they say, start to notice how your child communicates. For example, do they pull you towards an object? Do they point to what they want? Do they scream and cry until you “guess” what they want? Notice how they are communicating in different situations. For example, will they point while looking at a book with you or while watching planes in the sky? Observing how your child communicates will provide helpful insight on your child’s communication skills.
- Have relevant medical history and documents available: Your therapist will want a “case history” of your child. Has your child had recurrent ear infections? Did they meet their motor milestones? Has there been a significant medical history? This will all help your therapist get a better picture of your child and why they may be behind in their language skills. If your child has had any other evaluations (from another agency or by another professional), you will want to have those reports available.
Preparing for the Speech Evaluation
Finally, take a deep breath and know that you are being proactive in helping your child. Most brain development occurs before age three and synapses in the brain are building the potential to learn. We can actually reinforce existing synaptic connections and build new ones! The earlier we begin therapy, the better the outcome. Some kids may just need an extra “boost” and working with a Speech Pathologist can help you learn new ways to support language development at home. A Speech Pathologist will work with you and your child to help build a strong foundation for language and learning.
Brooke Andrews, M.A CCC-SLP is the owner of The Speech Dynamic, PLLC, a boutique private practice in Houston, TX. She specializes in social communication, language delays, and childhood apraxia of speech. Brooke is the co-creator of “Wiggle-Time” and has presented at various conferences. She shares her expertise in her workshops for parents and teachers.