Speech Pathology Assessment

by Care Speech 
13 January 2023

There are many reasons people may seek a Speech Pathology assessment. Sometimes, the assessment is recommended by a third party (e.g., a teacher or a doctor), and it is not always easy to know why it was recommended or what to expect. Here, we provide an overview of the Speech Pathology assessment process, how it can help, and what it might mean for you, your child, or your loved one.

What does a Speech Pathologist assess?

You may be referred to or visit a Speech Pathologist for a variety of reasons. Speech Pathologists work with children and adults of all ages to help them with communication and swallowing skills. Qualified Speech Pathologists are able to assess and treat:

  • Speech sounds and related muscle functioning (e.g., speech patterns and articulation)
  • Early communication (e.g., early language, gesture, play and social interaction skills)
  • Language (e.g., understanding and using spoken words)
  • Pre-literacy skills (e.g., understanding, recognising and manipulating sounds and letters)
  • Literacy skills (e.g., reading, reading comprehension and writing)
  • Social communication (e.g., conversation, nonverbal communication and social skills)
  • Voice (e.g., protecting, projecting or strengthening voice for talking or singing)
  • Stuttering (e.g., speaking fluently without getting stuck on words)
  • Feeding and swallowing (e.g., diet modifications, feeding skills and safe-swallow strategies)
  • Accent modification & enunciation (e.g., reducing an accent or preparing for public speaking)

Why does a Speech Pathologist assess?

Speech Pathologists work with clients with a range of different challenges to their communication and swallowing – however, there is often more to the initial concern than meets the eye, and it is not always easy to identify the exact problem without looking a little deeper. By doing a comprehensive and holistic assessment, your Speech Pathologist is able to understand what is really going on beneath the surface. From there, they can implement an evidence-based therapy plan tailored to your needs and provide valuable information to you and your health team.

How does a Speech Pathologist assess?

At your initial consultation, the Speech Pathologist will focus on getting to know you and/or your child. They will want to know all about any relevant medical or developmental history, as well as additional

background information. This will help the Speech Pathologist to understand your personal situation so that they can choose the right assessments.

Assessing communication or swallowing skills looks different for everyone, and will depend on the individual’s needs and capabilities. For example, standardised assessments can help inform a formal diagnosis (where/if needed), but they aren’t suitable for everyone. You or your child may be best assessed by using another method, such as:

Play-based observations (the Speech Pathologist watches you and your child play, interact and communicate with each other),

  • Picture-based assessments (a picture is shown then a question is asked about it),
  • Conversation samples (to listen, analyse and interpret your speech, voice, or language),
  • Video-based assessments (watching videos and asking what you might say/do in response),
  • Various speech and non-speech related tasks using different head & neck muscle groups to assess function, movement, accuracy, & strength for voice, swallowing, or speech,
  • Reading, writing, and listening tasks to assess your pre-literacy and literacy skills,
  • Mealtime observations to assess your ability to consume food and drink safely,
  • Questionnaires, checklists and surveys to further explore the areas of concern and/or,
  • Interviewing family members, teachers, health professionals, and other key people in the client’s support network.

Assessment happens the moment you or your child arrive in a session. Your Speech Pathologist will be watching, listening and observing from the start. Assessment results are then scored, analysed, interpreted and documented in a report for you and your health team (see our ‘Report Guide’ information sheet).

How long does a Speech Pathologist assessment take?

It depends! The number and types of assessments chosen will depend on the needs of the individual. The assessment process usually takes at least two sessions, but several more may be recommended to complete the assessment.

The time it takes to assess can be influenced by many factors, such as cooperation, engagement, the difficulty of tasks, the number of assessments needing to be completed, and the type of assessment. However, your Speech Pathologist will discuss this with you in detail to ensure you are happy with the plan. Upon completion of your final assessment, a clinical report will be recommended. This usually takes 3-4 weeks for the Speech Pathologist to prepare.

Do I really need a Speech Pathology assessment?

While it can be tempting to want to jump straight into therapy, it is important to remember that the more thorough and complete the assessment process is, the more thorough and helpful therapy will be. Assessment helps to pinpoint specific needs so that therapy activities can be individually tailored.

An assessment may be requested by a GP, Pediatrician, Psychologist or another health professional. However, you don’t need a referral to see a Speech Pathologist. Having an assessment and report done can…

  • Help you better understand your or your child’s communication and swallowing needs,
  • Help you access funding, e.g., when initially applying for the NDIS or other community supports,
  • Help you prepare your child for school and help classroom teachers support your child,
  • Help others in your child’s management team better understand, assess and support your child (e.g., needing a language or literacy assessment to rule out or confirm the presence of Autism-Spectrum Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, or Dyslexia).
  • Help confirms the presence or absence of significant difficulties (e.g., aphasia, swallowing disorders, stuttering, language disorder etc.).

Do I get a report at the end?

In Australia, a Speech Pathology report is recommended for all clients following an assessment. This is particularly true if:

  • there are other health professionals involved in the client’s care (such as a Psychologist or Paediatrician),
  • the client is planning to apply for funding, or
  • assessment has been conducted across multiple areas (e.g., speech, language & social skills).

However, while a report may be recommended, it is always your decision if you would like to request one at the end of the day. Keep in mind that reports are important documents that take time, care and expertise for your Speech Pathologist to prepare and are provided at a separate cost to assessment sessions.

If you would like more information about Speech Pathology assessment or would like to book an initial consultation with a Speech Pathologist from our team, don't hesitate to get in touch with us on 1300 086 280 or at [email protected].

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