In the school setting, speech therapists are required to do speech therapy assessments to establish eligibility for speech services. SLPs are instructed to follow the educational code to identify if a student has a speech language impairment in the school setting. Completing a speech and language assessment in the school setting differs from other settings in that there is specific requirements that a child must meet in order to receive speech services in the school setting.
Last year, I started an assessment series to help SLPs learn about completing legally defensible speech reports. You can read about my first blog post HERE. It is all about collecting a thorough background section for your speech assessment reports.
The Importance of A Defensible Speech & Language Assessment
A legally defensible speech report is very important for determining eligibility for special education services. The speech assessment helps with developing an appropriate Individual Education Plan for a student, so it’s a big deal!
When do special education assessments get challenged
Parents can challenge an assessment if there has been a failure to assess the student. The school district may be viewed as not providing a free and appropriate education if they don’t complete the assessment.
The other reason parents can challenge an assessment is if they want an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) completed by an outside agency. An IEE can be granted by a court only if IEP team failed to assess the student in all areas of suspected disability.
Determining Suspected Areas of Disability
A suspected area of disability can fall into any or all of these areas: health and development, vision, hearing, language function, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, motor abilities, self-help, orientation and mobility skills, and career and vocational abilities and interests.
The IEP team can collect information about suspected areas of disability is through your school’s general education intervention process. In California, we call them student study team meetings where we document response to intervention strategies to determine if those strategies are working or if noticeable concerns continue to surface with the students learning.
When doing an assessment with the whole IEP team, the SLP can work with the school psychologist and nurse to get the health and developmental questionnaire filled out by parent.
Here is an example of determining suspected areas of disability
If the parent and teacher both mention that they cannot understand the student when they are reading and communicating, this is a good indicator that you will need to thoroughly assess the student’s articulation skills. The SLP may choose to administer a formal articulation test and obtain a conversational sample. In order to determine if there are muscle and motor movement concerns with producing the sounds, an oral motor exam would be completed. Then, an informal baseline assessment could be completed to see if the student can correctly say the sounds at the word or sentence level. An SLP needs to look at other areas of communication such as language, fluency, voice and social skills, but the main assortment of assessment materials would fall into the suspected area of need.
Choosing Speech Therapy Assessment Tools
Some of these suggestions may feel like a no brainer, but I think it is always a good refresher to remember when considering which assessment batteries to use.
- You must follow the test manual protocols to make the results valid & reliable. If you veered from the test manual, share a statement about how you used the test.
- Assessment batteries must be given by trained professionals. Janitors, secretaries, parent volunteers and SLPAs can’t be administering tests for ya! You have to sail that ship.
- Using one test to determine eligibility is not defensible because an SLP needs to show that they used a variety of measures to make a determination if a student has a speech and/or language disorder.
- SLPs need to consider test biases and how that may impact the student’s scores. Dynamic assessment is a great informal assessment tool to use with students of a second language. You can see the helpful blog posts for speech assessments below.
- A classroom observation should be completed when appropriate. For SLPs, classroom observations are definitely recommended when there are social pragmatic concerns.
Behavioral Considerations For Choosing Speech Therapy Assessment Tools
Some students you test will not comply with the test manual procedures because of many factors. In some cases SLPs have students that have a very short attention span. Furthermore, there are situations when you cannot establish a baseline or have NO interest in completing the assessment tasks. You may need to break an assessment up into chunks, and give positive reinforcements for work completed. Sometimes we have to pull out some creative behavioral techniques to keep the student engaged during the assessment. Documenting these accommodations is important for the team to understand the testing conditions. When formal assessments are not a reliable measure due to behaviors consider collecting information about the student’s speech and language skills via informal assessments, language samples, checklists, classroom observations and parent/teacher input.
Considerations For Assessing Students Who Speak English As A Second Language
Students who speak English as a second language must be assessed in their first language. If an SLP does not speak the language of the student, the SLP can use an interpreter. In order to meet eligibility for speech language impairment, a student has to be exhibiting language delays in both their primary and secondary languages. This can include interviews with parent about speech and language development, classroom intervention data, dynamic assessment information and results from formal assessments. This book from my former professor is VERY helpful for bilingual assessments. Check out the book Multicultural Students With Special Needs-Practical Strategies For Assessment & Intervention if you need support with bilingual assessments.
Knowing The Articulation & Language Differences of Your Student’s Primary Language & Secondary Language
If you assess students from different cultural backgrounds or speak English as a second language, it is very important to know the student’s primary language sound and language differences. This is helpful for determining if a student is exhibiting a speech and/or language disorder or if the characteristics observed in the student’s speech or language are just differences from English. When we know the student’s primary language characteristics, it helps us not over-identify students as well as help us pick reliable test measures. Throughout my career, I have had a lot of different languages that I have had to assess including Punjabi, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Hmong, Mongolian, Somali and Arabic. I created a Dual Language Learners Guide to help me quickly reference articulation and language differences from English. You can check out my guide HERE or click the image above.
Helpful blog posts for speech assessments:
Tips & Time Saving Hacks For Speech Assessment Reports
First of all, work with your school psychologist and special education teacher to write a multi-disciplinary report. By having one thorough report, the SLP doesn’t have to duplicate the background information and focus on their portion of the assessment. Often times, I would write my own speech report and find that the psychologist and I had similar background sections. If we had combined our efforts, then it would have saved time and made our assessment more cohesive.
Part of doing a thorough speech assessment is writing the report. Therefore, it is important to include test validation statements and descriptions in your reports. Also, a solid background and interpretations of the test findings is recommended (check back for my last post in this series)! Creating TEMPLATES is how you save time! You can download my FREE speech therapy assessment report template below.
Here is a video on a report writing time saving hacks that you can watch on my facebook page.
Home Speech Home has over 90 test descriptions HERE; however, some of the tests have not been updated with the latest version. Nonetheless, it is still a great resource for those tests SLPS do not frequently use with students!
Interpretations & Summary Of Your Speech Assessment
My next post is going to be all about how to interpret the test results. Furthermore, writing a cohesive summary of your findings is important for explaining how the students scores may impact them in the classroom setting. We will also be discussing how to write recommendations in your speech reports! Do you have any questions about speech assessments? Leave a comment below or email me at fe*********@th*****************.com.