The Speech – Language Assessment

When a child is referred for a Speech – Language Assessment, the presenting problem might be a difficulty in one or a combination of the following:

  • Speech including articulation;
  • Receptive Language;
  • Expressive Language;
  • Pragmatics;
  • Auditory Processing.
It must be noted that the aforementioned areas are listed separately but are interwoven and should not be considered as isolated from one another. The following would be considered when assessing the child:
  • home language and language of teaching and learning;
  • emotional well being;
  • level of attention and concentration during the assessment;
  • familial history;
  • hearing sensitivity – an audiological assessment before assessment is always ideal;
  • age of the child (the interaction of the therapist and the choice of test battery will vary according to the age of the child).

A detailed explanation of each of the assessment areas follows:

ORAL PERIPHERAL EXAMINATION:This is an assessment of all the visible oral and facial structures necessary for accurate speech production and their function.

VOICE AND FLUENCY: Informal observation throughout assessment will note how appropriate the child’s clarity, pitch, volume, resonance and intonation for his/her gender and age. Fluency refers to the flow of speech from word to word, phrase to phrase and sentence to sentence.

ARTICULATION: Articulation refers to the physical movements and placement of the articulators and the motor abilities necessary for the production of the speech sounds. Phonology is defined as the system of rules underlying the sound production and combination in the formation of words.

AUDITORY PROCESSING: This refers to the ability to recognise and interpret stimuli that are heard. These skills should be established in early primary school years in order to ensure that basic sound recognition and manipulation skills are in place for reading and spelling skills to develop.

RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE: Receptive Language is the ability to comprehend and understand verbal expression. Receptive Language tests therefore assess the child’s understanding of language and require a non-verbal response to a question.

EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE: The ability to use language and to express one’s self in accordance with one’s age. The ability to make one’s self understood (expressive language) is essential to academic and social functioning. Expressive Language tests explore the child’s ability to use words in sentences, and to organize events into a logical sequence.

METALINGUISTICS: Metalinguistics involves the ability to recognise the components and structures of a language and apply unspoken rules to the culture and society of that language. Metalinguistics can be classified as the ability to consciously reflect on the nature of language.

PRAGMATICS: Pragmatics is the area of language that focuses on how language is used in different social contexts.

Specific standardised assessments can target these areas and provide valuable information that can be translated into an intervention if necessary. The Speech-Language Therapist, as part of the multi-disciplinary team, will gain a holistic view of the child that can describe how he/she learns best or identify more specifically where areas of difficulty lie.

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