A multidisciplinary evaluation is a team evaluation involving several disciplines and method of gathering information to capture a better picture of the whole child. No child is just their reading ability, just their speech development, just their behavior. A multidisciplinary evaluation strives to see how strengths and challenges in all areas influence each other to determine a child’s ability in a given environment. Disciplines involved in a multidisciplinary evaluation might include: Speech Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Special Educator, School Psychologist, School Adjustment Counselor, etc.
Conversely, a “speech only” evaluation would only look at a child’s speech and language skills.
The Problem with The Speech Only Evaluation
Consider Scarborough’s Reading Rope analogy. Skilled reading is a rope made of many component skills woven together. The two main components are word recognition (phonological awareness, decoding, and sight recognition) and language comprehension (background knowledge, vocabulary, syntax, semantics, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge). Viewing this model, you can see that written language, including reading and writing, are really just skills on the continuum of speech and language development. Only assessing a child’s speech language skills and not evaluating or at the very least monitoring their literacy development is a huge omission in their development as a learner.
Now, not every child with a speech-language disorder will experience challenges with literacy development. So, how do we know when to advocate for more than just a speech-language evaluation? We can turn to the research to support our decision for when to refer our “speech only” students.
Speech Sound Disorders & Reading Disabilities
Jin et al. (2020) found poor speech intelligibility in preschool nearly doubled a child’s likelihood of reading disability at age 8. Their research indicated predictive factors of which children may develop a reading impairment included concomitant language impairment, family history of reading or language disability, SES, and being female.
Several studies have found that approximately 25% of children receiving speech therapy for a Speech Sound Disorder meet the criteria to be at risk for a reading disability (Tambryraja et al., 2020). Furthermore, of those children identified as at-risk for a reading disorder, a statistically small percent made improvement with speech therapy alone over the course of one school year.
Language Impairment & Reading Disabilities
McArthur et al. (2000) found that greater than 50% of students identified with Specific Language Impairment met the criteria for reading disability.
Murphy et. al. (2016) concluded that the risk for reading difficulty in children with language impairments can be reliably determined in preschool. They identified poor alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, name writing, and oral language abilities as the key predictors of later literacy development. These differences in ability were present before any formal reading instruction.
The Bottom Line
Children with language impairments and speech sound disorders are at greater risk for reading disabilities. Even more so for those students with both language impairment and speech sound disorder. Understanding this risk is important for early identification, especially since children who enter school with reading difficulties are very likely to remain on that path!
Have you ever asked your students why they think they come to speech therapy? It can be a really eye-opening experience.
From the Mouths of Babes
To learn reading…okay, close. I love literacy-based therapy, so we use a lot of picture books, and we often work on narrative. This is incorrect, but logical.
To have fun…yes, we do have a lot of fun, but the toys and games have a purpose, and they are not the reason you are here.
To learn math…honestly, this one hurts.
Something Needed to Change
After receiving many responses like the ones above and noticing that my students were not demonstrating carryover, I knew something needed to change.
How can a student carryover a skill if they don’t even realize they are learning it?! To bridge this gap and help my young students (preschool to third grade) understand and remember their speech therapy goals, I knew I needed to build goal ownership tasks into my speech therapy sessions.
I knew I needed a resource that was visual for my non-readers, easy to switch out/ manage during quick session transitions, and provided minimal distraction for my students. That was when I discovered adhesive name tag pockets at the Target Dollar Spot (Thanks Target for always being there when I need ya!). The adhesive pockets make switching out the goal visuals quick and easy, and keep the visuals out of my student’s fidgety fingers!
Speech Therapy Goal Name Tags
Speech Therapy Goal Name Tags were designed to provide even our youngest students with a highly visual, distraction-free tool for recalling and identifying their speech therapy goals. Over 100 different speech therapy goals are represented in this product–covering articulation to AAC. Check out the video below to check it out!
How I Use Goal Name Tags in Speech Therapy Sessions
At the beginning of every session, I quickly slide each student’s goal name tag into the adhesive pocket in front of them on my speech therapy table. Next, using a dry erase marker, I circle the goal we will be targeting in today’s session. If we are targeting multiple goals, I will explain that or erase and re-circle as we transition skills.
At the end of every session, I ask the students to recall what goal we were targeting and give me an example. For example, a student might respond, “We are practicing telling stories. I told you the parts of Dragons Love Tacos.” or “We are working on past-tense verbs like I threw the baseball.”
When a student masters a goal, we will review the skill, discuss the progress made, and then add a special sticker or a checkmark with a permanent marker to that goal icon on the name tag.
I have also sent goal name tags home or with classroom aides to increase generalization and ensure everyone is working toward the same end goals. The name tags are great for students using AAC devices as well. I tape a copy of a student’s goal name tag to the back of their device or place it inside their device carrying case.
Why use Speech Therapy Goal Name Tags?
Teaching your students their speech therapy goals is empowering. Not only does it presume competence and reinforce a growth mindset, but it will increase carryover and support generalization. When students understand and can recall their speech therapy goals, they will notice opportunities to practice and be more likely to self-correct in other settings.
On the topic of goals!
While we are talking about goals, don’t forget to check out the Speech Therapy Goal Bank in the Seldom Speechless Freebie Library. It includes 250+ IEP objectives and 100+ IEP Accommodations that you can copy, paste, & go!
Hey! If you are reading this post, you are probably heading into Extended School Year (ESY) too! This is my fifth year working ESY and while I always dread it a bit as ESY approaches, I am usually happy that I worked it. ESY is more relaxed with a summer camp feel. I love being able to stay connected with a few of my students during the summer. Some districts have more intense ESY programs than others, but for me, it is just a couple of hours, just a few days a week to help me keep a little bit of a schedule during the summer.
Here is how I get ready for ESY each year!
If you are interested in checking out the autopopulating data sheets, you can grab your copy here in the freebie library.
Let me know if you are working Extended School Year this year!