What Problems Are You Seeing?
When trying to figure out whether or not a child needs a referral to the speech-language pathologist, the teacher must first determine what problems they are noticing. Ask yourself these questions: How much of what the student says do I understand? Are the sound errors age-appropriate? Click here for a sound development chart or see chart pictured below. Is the student an English Language Learner? Does the student have a poor vocabulary? Can the student follow instructions? Is the students speech confusing to understand? Does the speech or language problem adversely impact the student and their academic success? What general education interventions have I tried?
Considerations For an Articulation Referral
Once you have asked yourself the above questions and have determined the student is hard to understand because they are mispronouncing sounds, make a list of words that are mispronounced or are difficult for others to understand. If the student can read have them read allowed and write down the words they mispronounce. If the student can’t read, have the student label several pictures. Look at the list of words and refer to the developmental sound chart to determine if the errors are age-appropriate or not. If they are not and they’re hard to understand more than 20% of the time then this would be a good time to make a referral to the speech-language pathologist (SLP).
Referral for Language
If you think the student has deficits in language, document things that have happened that have led you to believe this. Make sure to consider the student’s background information. For example a student who is an English Language Learner may have a smaller vocabulary in English than peers. However, that student may have a typical vocabulary in their primary language. To qualify for speech therapy a bilingual student must have the same deficits in English as they do in their primary language, so it is important to keep this in mind. Consider whether the student is able to follow instructions, answer questions, ask questions, comprehend books, and communicate thoughts clearly. Then ask yourself what general education interventions have I put in place? If the answer is none, start there. If general education interventions have failed, it’s time to consider making a speech therapy referral.
Fluency A.K.A. Stuttering
Stuttering is the involuntary repetitions of a sound, word, or phrase. Tension in the body or eye blinking during speech, as well as, feeling embarrassed when talking may accompany stuttering. Stuttering is common and considered normal for young children (5 or younger). If a child is stuttering ONLY when they are excited prompt them to take a breath, slow down, and try again. If a child is stuttering without being excited then contact the SLP at your school about your concerns. Stuttering can be tricky, so unless it’s only occurring when the student is excited, it’s best to get a professional opinion.
Please see the Speech Referral Checklist below that I have created to help guide your referral.
This all may seem confusing. The bottom line is when you notice something is off with your student’s speech or language skills the instinct to refer is most likely right. However, it’s important to figure out what type of problem the student is having so you can see if it’s age-appropriate or if interventions in the classroom can solve the problem.
Click here for classroom intervention ideas to get late talkers talking. If classroom interventions don’t eliminate the problem or if the student is in need of specialized small group instruction contact your school’s SLP. Click here for speech therapy referral materials that may help the process.