Growing up, many children may have trouble speaking or understanding words. To figure out what’s going on, there are lots of tests that speech therapists can make use of. These tests can be used to diagnose a potential case of autism.
If you're a parent looking for an early intervention, you might wonder which test is best for your child. In this guide, we'll talk about the standardized and non-standardized tests that speech therapists use so you can understand what might be best for your kid.
What Is Speech and Language Therapy?
Speech and language therapy is a specialized form aimed at helping children and adults who experience difficulties with communication, speech production, language development, and related skills. This therapy is performed by speech and language therapists, also known as speech-language pathologists.
Speech and language therapists use various language assessment tools and techniques to help individuals improve their communication abilities. Therapy sessions may involve exercises to strengthen speech muscles, language development activities, and strategies for improving social communication skills. The ultimate goal of this therapy is to help individuals communicate effectively.
Speech and language therapy addresses various aspects of communication, including:
Articulation Disorders: Articulation disorders involve difficulties in producing speech sounds correctly. Children or adults with articulation disorders may substitute, omit, distort, or add sounds to words.
Fluency Disorders: Fluency disorders disrupt the natural flow, rhythm, and speed of speech. Fluency disorders include stuttering -inability to get out a sound- and cluttering -speaking extra fast and merging words.
Resonance Disorders: Resonance disorders affect speech quality due to issues with the vibration of the vocal cords and airflow through the oral and nasal passages.
Receptive Disorders: Receptive language disorders involve difficulties understanding spoken or written language.
Expressive Disorders: Expressive language disorders pertain to difficulties in expressing thoughts and ideas clearly. This can involve limited vocabulary, grammatical errors, and trouble forming coherent sentences.
Cognitive-Communication Disorders: These disorders affect thinking skills related to communication, such as memory, attention, problem-solving, and reasoning. This is majorly due to an injury to the part of the brain responsible for thought.
Aphasia: Aphasia is a language disorder often caused by brain injuries like strokes. It impairs the ability to speak, read, write, or understand language.
Dysarthria: Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder characterized by weakness, paralysis, or poor coordination of the muscles used for speech. This results in slow or slurred speech.
Testing for Speech and Language Therapy
Testing for speech and language therapy involves tests to determine if there is a speech disorder and the best method to provide support and intervention services. These tests are divided into two categories: standardized and non-standardized tests.
Here are some of the most common standardized speech and language therapy tests:
Test of Preschool Vocabulary (TOPV)
The TOPV assesses the vocabulary skills of preschool-age children -ages 2 to 5 years, 11 months- to determine if their vocabulary development is within the expected range for their age. It uses both expressive and receptive vocabulary to determine a child’s ability to use single words representing basic concepts.
During the test, the words are introduced in order of difficulty, starting from the most common words to less familiar ones. TOPV results can help:
Identify vocabulary deficits
Diagnose early semantic ability
Compare expressive and receptive vocabulary knowledge
Guide intervention planning for children with language delays or disorders
Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF)
CELF is a comprehensive assessment tool used to evaluate a wide range of language skills in individuals ages 5 to 21. A person's age will determine the version of the test they receive. This test is applicable for kids who experience difficulty forming sentences, following multi-step directions, or remembering verbal information.
The CELF consists of several subtests that can access all parts of a child’s vocabulary skills, including:
Concepts and Following Directions
Recalling Sentences in Context
Comprehension Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL)
The CASL assesses the processing and expression of spoken language in individuals aged 3 to 21. CASL includes subtests with referral questions that assess receptive and expressive language skills, such as understanding idiomatic expressions and answering questions about paragraphs.
It is good for determining if a child has a language delay or disorder. It also gauges the language abilities of learners of the English language.
Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation (GFTA-3)
GFTA-3 assesses the articulation skills of children and adults aged 2 to 21. It evaluates the production of sounds, words, syllables, sentences, and entire conversations to identify speech sound errors.
The GFTA is a short test, taking only about 20 minutes to complete. This makes it great for kids who have a short attention span. GFTA-3 assists in diagnosing articulation disorders and planning speech therapy interventions to target specific sound errors.
Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS)
The OWLS assesses how a child can form sentences verbally and in written language. It can be administered to individuals aged 3 to 21 to determine listening comprehension, oral expression, reading, and writing skills.
The assessment will require your child to finish a story based on a picture prompt shown to him/her. The story will then be assessed for:
This test could take between 40 minutes to 2 hours to finish, depending on the child's ability.
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT)
The PPVT assesses receptive vocabulary skills for Standard American English in individuals aged 2.5 to 40 years. It also provides an estimate of the individual’s verbal ability or aptitude. The PPVT English language version contains 175 vocabulary items that increase in complexity as the test continues. A similar test for Spanish is the Test de Vocabulario en Imagenes Peabody (TVIP).
The individual first listens to a word, is presented with a series of pictures, and is asked to select the picture that best describes the word.
Screening Test for Developmental Apraxia of Speech (STDAS)
The STDAS is designed to identify children aged 4 to 12 with suspected developmental apraxia of speech. This motor speech disorder prevents kids from forming the words they think. It measures a child’s receptive language skills compared to their expressive language skills and only takes 15 minutes to finish.
If a child understands more than they express, it is a major sign of apraxia of speech. However, this is not a comprehensive assessment but serves as a screening tool. Therefore, after the screening, a speech-language pathologist will still carry out further testing to get a definite diagnosis.
Test of Language Development (TOLD)
The TOLD is a comprehensive assessment tool that evaluates the ability of a child to understand and form language. Like the CELF, TOLD tests vary based on the child's age and can be administered to kids of different ages, ranging from young to adolescents.
This test ranges from 40 minutes to 20 hours, depending on the child's skills and the presence of any attention problems.
Non-standardized tests are informal assessments that speech-language pathology specialists use to determine a child’s language skills and abilities. Here are some non-standardized assessment methods used in speech and language therapy:
Language sampling involves collecting spontaneous speech or writing samples from individuals during natural communication. It allows speech-language pathologists to assess various aspects of language, providing valuable insights into an individual's real-world language abilities.
SLPs may engage individuals in conversations, storytelling, or writing tasks. The samples are then transcribed and analyzed for language errors, sentence structure, vocabulary usage, and overall communication effectiveness.
Dynamic assessment is a flexible and interactive evaluation approach used to understand an individual's learning potential and how they respond to intervention. Rather than relying solely on fixed tasks, dynamic assessment involves teaching the individual specific skills or strategies within the assessment process. The SLP observes how the individual learns and adapts, providing insights into their ability to benefit from intervention.
Dynamic assessment is useful for assessing children with language disorders, learning disabilities, or those who may potentially improve with targeted instruction. It helps SLPs identify the best approaches for therapy.
Parent and Teacher Questionnaires
Questionnaires are valuable tools to gather information from parents, caregivers, teachers, and other individuals who interact with the individual regularly. They provide insights into communication and behavior in different settings. Questionnaires may include questions about language development, social communication, behavior, and any concerns or observations related to speech and language.
Parent and teacher questionnaires help SLPs comprehensively understand an individual's communication strengths and weaknesses in various environments. This information can then guide treatment and intervention planning.
How To Recognize the Need for Speech and Language Therapy in Kids
Recognizing if your child needs speech therapy can majorly affect their development. While every child develops at their own pace, certain signs and red flags may indicate a need for speech therapy. Here are some common signs that your child might benefit from speech therapy:
Delayed Speech and Language Development: If your child is significantly behind in reaching speech and language milestones for their age, it could be a sign of a speech disorder. For example, by age 2, most children should be able to form basic sentences and be understood by familiar people.
Difficulty with Pronunciation: If your child consistently mispronounces sounds or words, has trouble with articulation (making certain speech sounds), or exhibits persistent speech sound errors beyond what is typical for their age, this may indicate a need for intervention.
Limited Vocabulary: Children should gradually increase their vocabulary and use more complex language as they grow. Therefore, a smaller-than-expected vocabulary may suggest a language delay for their age group.
Difficulty Understanding Spoken Language: If your child struggles to comprehend spoken instructions or questions, it may indicate receptive language difficulties.
Stuttering: Stuttering is characterized by disruptions in the natural flow of speech, such as repetitions or prolongations of sounds. If your child exhibits stuttering behaviors that persist for several months, it's advisable to consult a speech therapist.
Lack of Social Communication Skills: Difficulty engaging in conversations, making eye contact, or understanding social cues can be signs of pragmatic language difficulties, which speech therapy can address.
Persistent Drooling or Feeding Difficulties: For younger children, difficulties with swallowing, drooling beyond a typical age, or problems with eating and drinking can indicate oral-motor issues that a speech therapist can help with.
Benefits of Speech and Language Therapy
Speech and language therapy can considerably improve the lives of individuals with communication and speech disorders. Here are some benefits it offers:
Enhanced Communication Skills: SLT helps individuals develop and refine their communication abilities, enabling them to express themselves effectively. This is vital for building relationships, conveying needs and emotions, and participating fully in social, academic, and professional settings.
Improved Academic Performance: Children with speech and language difficulties often face challenges in school. Speech therapy can help them overcome these challenges, improving reading, writing, and overall academic achievement.
Enhanced Social Interaction: Effective communication is at the heart of social interactions. Speech therapy can improve pragmatic language skills, enabling individuals to engage in meaningful conversations, make friends, and navigate social situations successfully.
Increased Self-Confidence: As communication skills improve, so does self-confidence. Individuals who can express themselves clearly and be understood by others often experience greater self-esteem and a more positive self-image.
Assistance for Swallowing Disorders: Speech-language pathologists also address swallowing disorders -dysphagia, ensuring that individuals can safely and comfortably eat and drink without the risk of choking or aspiration pneumonia.
Improved Quality of Life: Ultimately, the importance of speech and language therapy lies in its ability to enhance the quality of life for individuals of all ages. It enables them to communicate effectively, engage in society, access education and employment opportunities, and experience greater well-being.
In conclusion, the tests available for speech and language therapy serve as vital tools to diagnose, assess, and provide interventions for individuals with communication challenges, including autism. Whether for children overcoming developmental delays or adults recovering from a neurological condition or impairment, these tests pave the way for individualized therapy, ensuring that people can reach their full potential in communication and enjoy improved quality of life.