What is a Speech-Language Screener?
A screener is a brief assessment that provides a snapshot of a child’s communication skills and serves as a valuable tool in helping identify children who may need speech-language therapy. Let's Connect offers screening as a service to daycares, preschools, and elementary schools. With signed parental consent, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) administers a standardized screener individually to students. A screening takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, and depending on the child’s age, it can include a general measure of some or all of these speech and language skills:
- Articulation (production of speech sounds, such as /d/ as in "dog")
- Connected Speech (intelligibility during conversation)
- Language (use and comprehension of language)
- Social/Interpersonal Communication
(This list is by no means exhaustive, and SLPs specializing in specific areas may screen for additional skill areas based on their expertise.)
After the Screener
Following the screener, the SLP analyzes the results, applies knowledge from clinical experience, and carefully reviews input from parents and teachers. Using all of this information, the SLP determines if a child’s skills appear to be on track or if there is an area we should examine more closely with a focused and in-depth assessment called a comprehensive evaluation to determine if a delay or disorder is present. Next, results and recommendations are communicated to parents and teachers. If there were any concerns or atypical observations made by the SLP, parents are always encouraged to ask questions. If a comprehensive evaluation is recommended, the SLP will walk parents through what type(s) of assessment is suggested and how to proceed with next steps in supporting their child's communication.
What Your Child Can Expect
Here is how you can prepare your child for an upcoming speech-language screener. The week that the screener is scheduled, it may be helpful to mention to your child that a safe and friendly grown-up called an SLP or “speech teacher” will meet with him, along with other students, at school for a few minutes. You can explain in child-friendly terms that an SLP is a helper in our schools, hospitals, and community who works with babies, children, and adults on their talking, thinking, and swallowing.
When it’s his turn, the child will get to play a game (usually involving pictures) with the SLP and answer some questions. The SLP may ask to look inside his mouth, just as the dentist and pediatrician do. She may even challenge him to do silly tricks or movements using his mouth (e.g., lifting his tongue tip towards his nose like an elephant raises its trunk).
If you’re concerned that your child may be hesitant or unwilling to participate in a screener, don’t sweat it. Even some of the shyest and least chatty students often open up once we begin, and those who don’t can be accompanied by a familiar teacher. For the most part, children love the one-on-one attention during the screening time and return to class feeling like a winner who completely impressed and enchanted me, which they often do!
- Johanna Sims, M.S., CCC-SLP