Where do assessments take place?
This varies but it’s usual for your child to be seen either in their nursery or school, a clinic, or at home.
What happens at the first speech therapy appointment?
The people who will be there
The speech-language pathologist (speech therapist) is the one who carries out the assessment. Usually just one speech-language pathologist does this.
Sometimes a Speech Therapy Technician or Speech Therapy Assistant is present.
Sometimes a student speech-language pathologist might be there. If a student is present the speech-language pathologist will tell you this. You don’t have to have a student involved with your child if you don’t want to. Just tell the speech-language pathologist. They won’t be upset about this. However, if you’re happy to have a student involved this is helpful because this is the way we train new speech-language pathologists for the future.
The speech-language pathologist will assess your child’s communication skills. They do this by watching and listening as your child plays and talks. They might also ask your child to carry out some activities – like pointing out things in books, repeating words, moving toys, following instructions, and so on.
They will look at how well your child can:
- listen and concentrate
- understand words and sentences
- use words and sentences to talk to other people
- talk without straining their voice
- use the right sounds in words when speaking
- talk in a smooth, easy and relaxed way without tripping over their words or stuttering
- use speech and language differently in different situations
When the speech-language pathologist has finished the assessment they will discuss your child’s communication skills with you. They will also talk about any difficulties your child might be having.
You and the speech-language pathologist will decide what to do next.
- If your child’s communication skills are about the same as other children of their age then no more appointments may be needed.
- If your child only has a small difficulty the speech-language pathologist might just give you advice about how to help them stay confident about communicating.
- If your child does have some communication difficulties then the speech-language pathologist will discuss what can be done to help.
What if my child has difficulties?
There are lots of ways a speech-language pathologist can help:
- providing advice leaflets
- showing you ways you can use everyday activities to help your child
- providing games and activities that help to improve communication skills
- advising nursery or school teachers on ways they can help
- working directly with your child – this might be done on their own or in a small group of children who all have a similar difficulty. Sometimes the speech-language pathologist works directly with your child. Sometimes a Speech Therapy Technician or Assistant does the work, under the speech-language pathologist’s supervision. At other times someone in nursery or school might be asked to work directly with your child, using the activities recommended by the speech-language pathologist.
Sometimes the speech-language pathologist needs to get more information about things that might be affecting your child’s communication skills. If this is the case, the speech-language pathologist will refer your child to be seen by another professional. For example, because hearing difficulties can cause speech difficulties and language difficulties, the speech-language pathologist might arrange a hearing test.
The speech-language pathologist will always discuss their concerns with you before referring your child to another professional.
It’s usual for a speech-language pathologist to summarize their assessment findings in a written report. A copy of the report is often sent to your doctor and to you. Sometimes copies are sent to your child’s nursery or school and other professionals who are involved with helping your child. The speech-language pathologist might need your permission to send reports to certain people. So, discuss this with them.
If you’re using a private speech-language pathologist there might be additional charges for written reports. So, check this with your speech-language pathologist first.
It’s the speech-language pathologist’s job to work with you so that you can help your child. So, don’t be afraid to ask any questions. The speech-language pathologist will be pleased to answer any concerns you might have. They will be able to give you information about organizations that help children with communication difficulties, useful websites, support groups and any other advice.