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6.5: Identifying Students with Communication Disorders

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    School-age children should be screened for communication disorders in the early grades; however, universal screenings may not identify all existing problems. Therefore, classroom teachers and other professionals who work with students play a significant role in the identification and referral of students with possible communication disorders. Importantly, some areas of difficulty, such as articulation, have a developmental trajectory. ASHA has developed a chart that identifies the Age of Customary Consonant Production to identify age-appropriate articulation errors. Similarly, ASHA has developed a chart of Grammatical Morphemes in Order of Acquisition that identifies when children should produce correct grammatical morphemes.

    Educators and clinicians may use a variety of procedures in different settings to identify students for special education and related services. Speech–language pathologists (SLP), audiologists, and occupational and physical therapists may be involved in this process (Smiley et al., 2022). ASHA’s Preferred Practice Patterns for the Professions of Speech–Language Pathology (2004) indicates that a comprehensive speech–language pathology assessment should include the following components:

    • Case history, including medical status, education, socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds and information from teachers and other related service providers.
    • Student and family interviews.
    • Review of auditory, visual, motor, and cognitive status.
    • Standardized and/or non-standardized measures of specific aspects of speech, spoken and non-spoken language, cognitive–communication, and swallowing function, including observations and analysis of work samples.
      • Selection of standardized measures for speech, language, cognitive–communication, and/or swallowing assessment with consideration for documented ecological validity and cultural sensitivity.
    • Identification of potential for effective intervention strategies and compensations.
    • Follow-up services to monitor communication and swallowing status and ensure appropriate intervention and support for individuals with identified speech, language, cognitive–communication, and/or swallowing disorders (ASHA, 2022).

    In addition, the SLP consults other members of the multidisciplinary team, such as parents and psychologists, to determine how the disorder may impact other areas of a student’s life. The SLP may also conduct observations in different classroom settings, during different activities, and with different conversational partners to assess the impact the communication disorder has on the child’s ability to learn and identify the appropriate interventions. Assessment procedures are dependent on a student’s age and the aspect of language being assessed.

    Assessment procedures should also take into account linguistically diverse student populations and use appropriate alternative assessment procedures that reduce the bias inherent in some norm-referenced standardized tests. For English learners, information about their native language and English language proficiency is needed to determine whether they should be assessed in their native language. Finally, SLPs should also assess conversational and academic language skills in both languages. Students who are learning a second language generally acquire conversational language skills in 1–3 years but may need 5–7 years to acquire academic language skills (Smiley et al., 2022).

    Smiley, L. R., Richards, S.B., & Taylor, R. (2022). Exceptional students: Preparing teachers for the 21st century (4th ed.). McGraw Hill.

    American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2022, October 7). Assessment and evaluation of speech–language disorders in schools.

    This page titled 6.5: Identifying Students with Communication Disorders is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Diana Zaleski (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .