Important Steps To Take Before My Speech Evaluation
Before scheduling an appointment for a speech evaluation, it is critical that your child has had his/her hearing checked by an Audiologist or an Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT). It is important for the SLP to know what sounds a child is able to hear at different frequencies. If your child’s hearing is abnormal, they may not be hearing certain sounds that are important for speech and language development. In addition to getting your child’s hearing checked, it is important to report if your child has a history of recurrent ear infections. This information is significant because reoccurring ear infections may indicate that the child has fluid in their ears, and they may need pressure-equalizing (PE) tubes placed. PE tubes help to create an airway that ventilates the middle ear, which prevents the accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum. If there is recurring fluid building up behind the eardrum, your child may not be hearing all the sounds that are needed for speech and language development.
Another important consideration is to ask yourself if a professional has ever looked inside your child’s mouth? It is necessary for a professional to look inside your child’s oral cavity to observe the oral structures and to check if he/she has a tongue or lip tie. You can have your child stick out their tongue to observe if the tongue looks “heart-shaped” or if they have difficulty moving their tongue to their upper teeth or side to side. If so, this could indicate that they have a tongue tie (ankyloglossia) and they may need to have a small procedure (frenotomy) to get their frenulum (the small piece of skin beneath the tongue or between the lip and gum) clipped. Though this procedure sounds daunting, it is actually very common. If your child has a tongue or lip tie, it may be inhibiting the movement of their articulators which can affect speech intelligibility. A tongue or lip tie may also cause difficulty with feeding for an infant or toddler. Newborns can have a difficult time with latching on to the mother or sucking on a pacifier, while toddlers may have difficulty swallowing solid foods.
Lastly, does your child snore while they sleep? Kids should NEVER snore… not even intermittently! If your child is snoring, they need to see an ENT right away. One major concern is that they might not be getting an adequate amount of oxygen while they are sleeping because of a potential blockage of their airway. The blockage can be caused by swollen tonsils and/or adenoids. Many speech sounds are made by the movement of the soft palate (velum), and if those structures are swollen it can be hard for your child to produce sounds correctly. Many sounds can sound distorted because the child might not have the ability to manipulate his/her oral structures to the correct placement inside of their mouth due to the swelling of the tonsils and/or adenoids.
We hope this bit of information is helpful to you and your family. As always, feel free to contact our office with questions about your child’s speech and language development, and how it can be affected by these factors. We also have wonderful recommendations for local ENTs and Audiologists that we are more than happy to share!
Authors: Kailey Mersbach, MS, SLP-CF, and Rebekah Wamsley, MS, SLP-CF