Preparing ahead of time and packing a few key items will help you and your child make the most out of your first visit with the speech-language pathologist (SLP). Your child’s first visit to the SLP will usually consist of two parts: a parent interview and direct testing. You will want to bring certain items to the evaluation to make the most of each of these sections of the first visit.
You are the best expert on your child’s history and skills. Your speech therapist will usually use the beginning of your session to get to know more about your child’s history and your concerns. This will also give your child time to warm-up to a new person and a new environment. Very often, the information you provide in this interview will prove vital to shaping the therapist’s understanding of your child and other factors that could be influencing their development and prognosis.
Your SLP will usually ask you questions about your child’s medical history, developmental milestones, and current strengths and needs regarding their communication skills. To be prepared, you should take some time before the visit to write down some of the following medical information:
- Complications during pregnancy or during birth
- Results of newborn hearing screening or other hearing testing
- Names and contact information for your pediatrician or other specialists your child has seen (include any previous reports or contact information for any other speech-language pathologist your child has seen – privately, through early intervention, or through the school district)
- Any family history of speech, language, hearing, or learning problems
- History of ear infections or fluid in the ears
You may also want to think about how old your child was when they first:
- Sat up
- Said “mama” and/or “dada”
- Said their first words besides “mama” or “dada”
- Said their first two-word combos
- Started to recognize letters or read/recognize their first words
Also take the time to think about how you or others have described your concerns with your child’s speech or language issues. Children may have difficulties in some of the following areas:
- Limited vocabulary
- Difficulty combining words into sentences
- Difficulty with using grammar correctly
- Limited ability to interact socially with adults and/or peers
- Unclear speech
- Issues with voice (such as a raspy, hoarse, nasal, or breathy voice)
- Issues with stuttering (also known as disfluency)
Don’t forget to think about your child’s strengths, too. If your child is particularly good at communicating with certain people, about certain topics, using gestures instead of words, or even one of the areas listed above – make sure to tell your speech therapist about those strengths as well. These will come in handy in therapy down the line.
Feeding Milestones and Concerns:
If feeding is also an area of concern, don’t forget to jot down information such as when your child transitioned to baby foods, foods they eat and foods they avoid, and any information about when they started to demonstrate difficulties with chewing, swallowing, or drinking.
The actual evaluation of your child will involve two types of testing: indirect and direct. Indirect testing may often look more like play and informal conversation than an evaluation, but the speech-language pathologist is actually using this time to learn more about how your child communicates in real-life situations. Direct testing is more structured and may involve your child doing things such pointing to pictures in a testing manual, naming items, or answering the SLP’s questions. The therapist will generally have to continue with direct testing until the child answers a certain number questions in a row incorrectly, so don’t worry if your child isn’t getting every question right. Many children will have to answer questions that are actually for children older than them before the SLP can stop testing.
Items to Bring for Communication Evaluation
Finally, you may want to bring one or two small toys or favorite items with you to the evaluation session. Keep these items accessible but not necessarily out for your child to see right off the bat. If your child needs something to help them feel comfortable in a new environment, or if they have a certain toy they like to talk about, it can be an ice-breaker for their first interaction with their SLP. Ask your speech therapist if and when it’s okay to bring out these items, as they will sometimes be used during indirect testing.
Items to Bring for Feeding Evaluation
If feeding is an area of concern, be sure to bring a few items to help the SLP assess this area. Check beforehand that this is an area that will be covered. A feeding evaluation can take up an entire session and is often separate from the communication portion of the evaluation. Feeding items to consider bringing include:
- Food and drink that your child enjoys
- Food and/or drink that are difficult or not preferred by your child
- Food and/or drink that you would like your child to have
- Utensils you use regularly with your child (including spoons, forks, bowls, cups, and straws)
How to Participate In and Observe Testing
During the direct testing section of the visit, be careful to sit back and observe quietly until asked to participate in coaxing your child to answer. If the speech pathologist is not getting a particular response from your child, you may be asked to help out, but be careful about re-wording questions after the SLP asks them of your child. Very often, questions during the evaluation need to be asked in a very specific way for the SLP to score our tests correctly. Any rewording of a question may negate testing results.
Overall, a little pre-planning will help make your first visit with the speech therapist not only more productive but also smoother for both you and your child.
What questions do you have before your child’s evaluation visit? If you’ve already gone to the eval, how was your experience?