A Speech-Language Pathologist’s Role In a Diagnostic Evaluation

Diagnostic evaluations might include a multidisciplinary team of professionals, as the assessments will look at the child as a whole, not just one skill area. A diagnostic evaluation team could include a team of professionals, such as a developmental pediatric or neuropsychologist, speech-language pathologist (SLP), and occupational therapist (OT).

Why consult an SLP? 

There are a few reasons as to why an SLP can assist in the process of a child’s diagnostic evaluation. In order to provide the most accurate diagnosis possible, a clinician performing an evaluation may wish to consult other professionals from the child’s care team in order to gain insight into their skills across different contexts. An SLP can provide valuable insights about a child’s speech, language, and feeding (or swallowing) skills. An SLP can provide information by:

  1. Providing access to previous records if a child has been seeing an SLP prior to the diagnostic evaluation. The clinician providing the evaluation may want to see the reports on the child’s previously known communication challenges and their progress. Speech assessments and therapies are often used as a screening process in this capacity prior to a formal diagnostic evaluation. SLPs can also provide information regarding a child’s other developmental delays or social communication challenges that they have observed during their sessions. 
  2. A clinician may recommend that a child be evaluated for speech and language by an SLP after a diagnostic evaluation to see if they would benefit from specific treatment in the area of speech and language communication and/or oral motor skills. An SLP can also provide further formal assessments of speech and language to support a child’s claim for eligibility for services.

What areas of communication does an SLP assess?

An SLP may assess the following areas of speech-language communication to determine a child’s communicative abilities:

Language: including a child’s ability to express themself through spoken language as well as understand and interpret the spoken language of others. This also includes nonverbal communication such as gestures.

Speech: including difficulty with the formation and articulation of speech sounds, as well as speech motor disorders. 

Social communication: including a child’s ability to use eye-contact, initiate communication with others, use and interpret facial expressions, and practice the correct use of stress and intonation during conversation. 

Feeding and swallowing: Depending on the child’s age and oral motor ability, an SLP may decide to assess them for feeding and swallowing. Children with feeding and swallowing disorders may present difficulty chewing, sucking, or swallowing; and may also be prone to food or oral aversions. 

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC): In some cases an SLP may recommend that a child pursue a method of AAC during treatment. An augmentative form of AAC is used in conjunction with already existing speech in order to support a child while they strengthen their spoken language abilities. An alternative form of AAC is used when the child is physically unable to produce functional speech, and provides them with a substitute means of expressing themself. 

Based on the findings from these areas of communication assessment, an SLP can provide an accurate description of the child’s speech and language communication challenges as well as recommend next steps in the child’s therapeutic program. Working in conjunction with the results from the diagnostic evaluation, clinicians can move forward with a care plan that will best support both child, and parents moving forward. 

Do you have questions about diagnostic evaluations or your child’s communication skills? Contact the Goldman Center to speak with one of our specialists who can answer your questions at (773) 998-8500. 



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