Speech Language Assessment

Speech language assessment: There are four essential goals when assessing a child's language and communication skills.

They are, in order: to screen for language difficulty, establish a baseline for intervention, formulate appropriate goals for intervention, and to measure a child's language skills over time. Westby, Stevens, Dominguez, and Oetter (1996)


Clinicians screen children to separate the kids whose language skills are developing well from the children who are experiencing some form of language difficulty. The children who are identified as having a language difficulty will then usually be given a formal, norm-referenced language assessment.

Oral Language screening for children just beginning school is a very useful way of identifying kids who experience language delay or disorder, or who may have lower than average cognitive functioning. A screen is usually quite short (about 15 mins) and easy and quick to deliver.

Many school districts in Australia have prep screening programs, whereas others do not. Other districts have pre-school (kindergarten) screening programs, which are successful at identifying children with potential language disorder before they reach school.

Establishing a Baseline

Once a child has been identified as having possible language difficulty it is important to determine how well or how poorly the child communicates in different settings. This information can be provided by teachers or parents and by observing the child in different communicative contexts. For instance, a school-age child will be assessed with a norm referenced language assessment. The child may also be observed to see how he/she interacts in the classroom and with his/her peers.

Also, how well a child reads and interprets text and a sample of written work would provide extra useful information to help plan intervention. (It's important to add that all aspects of a child's communication should be screened, including hearing, oral-motor skills and phonological awareness.)

Formulate Language Intervention Goals

Armed with the valuable information afforded by a language assessment, the clinician can then determine whether a child has language impairment or difficulty and which areas to target for intervention. For instance, if it was revealed that a child had poor semantic and syntax skills, then those areas would be a focus of intervention.

Measuring change

Once a child has received a language assessment and intervention program they will need their language skills assessed at a later date to see if they have made progress, if they need their intervention program modified or to decide if the child is ready to be dismissed from receiving speech pathology services.

Types of Speech Language Assessment

Norm Referenced Assessment

Criterion Referenced Assessment


Kaderavek, J.N. (2011) Language Disorders in Children: Fundamental Concepts of Assessment and Intervention, Allyn & Bacon

Paul, R. (2006) Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence. Assessment and Intervention. Mosby

Westby, C.E., Stevens Dominguez, M., and Oetter, P. (1996) A performance/competence model of observational assessment. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 27(2), 144-156

Content Updated 10/11

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