Screening or Evaluation: Does It Matter?
Recently, I received another call from a parent asking me if I could evaluate her child. While speaking with the parent, I discovered that the child is already receiving speech therapy services at school, but the parent thinks her son needs more help. The parent really wasn't looking for an "evaluation," but rather a complimentary "screening" that I have been advertising.
When I pointed this out, she asked me, "What's the difference between an evaluation and screening?" Because this is a common question, I thought I would take a moment to clarify the difference.
During a screening, which may be conducted at a clinic, private office or in the classroom, a speech language pathologist (SLP) listens to a child or adolescent speak and possibly follow directions for about 15 minutes or so to determine whether a speech or language impediment may exist. In some cases involving children, for example, the SLP may determine that the speech or language deficiency is age- appropriate and may resolve itself within a period of time. If the issue is not age- or otherwise appropriate, the SLP likely will recommend that an evaluation is warranted to determine the specific nature and extent of the problem.
An evaluation involves in-depth testing and assessment. Depending on the nature of the evaluation, one or more tests can be conducted to determine if there is a problem in such areas as: speech sound production, receptive language processing and expressive language production. (I often conduct at least two tests). In addition to testing, the evaluation process will include taking a complete case history, consultation with family members and or others such as teachers and audiologists, and observation of the child. An evaluation results in a written report that either rules out a speech/language disorder or provides a diagnosis and recommendations for therapy.
So in a nutshell, a screening is an inexpensive (or no-cost) and expedient way to determine whether a more in-depth evaluation is even warranted.
Joanne Summer, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist based in Morristown, NJ, has helped hundreds of children improve their speech sound production and language skills. She founded Well Spoken Speech Therapy, LLC, in 2014 after spending 12 years providing therapy to children (K-5) in the New Jersey public school system. In private practice, her clients also include younger children and adolescents. In addition, she treats people of all ages who stutter or otherwise find it difficult to speak fluently—an area in which she has received extensive specialized training.