What is a Pre-School Speech and Language Screening?

It’s that time again, summer is winding down and schools are back in session! For all you pre-school parents it’s a big time of change and transition. There’s so much to balance that it’s hard to keep track of everything! Lucky for parents SLPs (Speech/Language Pathologists) are here to make part of that process a little easier with preschool speech and language screenings.

Speech and language screenings and therapy What is a pre-school speech and language screening?

A pre-school speech and language screening is a way for an SLP to observe children (approximately ages 2.5-5) in the school environment to determine if they demonstrate appropriate understanding and use of language, production of speech sounds, attention, and social skills with peers. The SLP will then determine if the child passed the screening or if they will recommend a full speech and language evaluation.

What does it mean if my child does not pass?

Being recommended by a pre-school language screener is an open conversation to talk about your child’s needs. As a parent you should be aware, but not alarmed! Early intervention is a wonderful opportunity to address areas where your child is struggling and give them the extra help they need  before academic and social demands increase as they get older. Research continues to show that identifying children with language disorders as early as possible is important because the earlier children receive speech and language intervention, the better their language outcomes will be.

>Speech and Language Screenings

>A look at Speech and Language Therapy

Each child develops at their own pace, so SLPs use typical age ranges of speech and language development as a guideline to recommend assessment.

>Typical ages of development for speech sounds 

>Development Chart for Speech and Language Skills

6 hidden speech and language skills that SLPs look for and why:

  • Speech intelligibility (in words and conversation) – Often it’s easier for close family members and familiar adults to understand kids, but if less familiar people have trouble understanding your child’s speech it could mean their speech is somewhat unintelligible. This can make it hard for children to be understood by peers and teachers, which can impact their communication at school. It can also be indicative of phonics or reading issues down the line if left untreated.
  • Attention to tasks – Can the child sit and listen during story time? Are they able to focus and listen when the teacher is talking? This can appear like the child struggles to follow directions when they may just need help learning how to focus and maintain their attention at the same level as their peers. Without appropriate attention skills, children can miss important things going on around them at school.
  • Early social skills (relating to peers, pretend play, functional play) – Are they able to initiate games and social interactions with their peers? Are they playing with toys functionally, such as stacking blocks or putting shapes in a shape sorter? Are they engaging in pretend play with their peers, like feeding their animal dolls or making their toys go on adventures? If not, they may need some help to gain these skills! If left untreated, this can lead to trouble relating to their peers and losing out on opportunities for social interactions.
  • Emotional regulation – Is your child able to react and respond appropriately when things do not go according to plan? Are they self-directed and on their own agenda or can they follow along and participate in what the group is doing? If not, it could mean that they need some help learning how to regulate their emotions.
  • Vocabulary development – SLPs take a look at the content and vocabulary your child is using in their speech. Preschool-age children are expected to understand and express a variety of concepts and word forms (e.g. verbs, adjectives, location words) at the same level as their peers. If your child is not using age-appropriate vocabulary or using only limited phrases or sentences, they might need help to expand their expressive skills.
  • Clear communication – Is your child able to clearly communicate their thoughts and their wants and needs? Are you noticing breakdowns in communication? Your child might need help in this area in order to help them be clearer communicators and to prevent frustration that breakdowns in communication can often cause.


Firing Up Your Child’s Language and Speech Skills for the New School Year

Language and speech development issues can lead to reading and writing difficulties, impeding a child’s ability to enjoy learning and to experience successful academic outcomes.

language and speech therapy Poor readers often have an early history of spoken language deficits. Not all communication challenges are rooted in a language and speech disorder, but it is important to make that determination, one way or the other, via a thorough assessment process. If a language and speech challenge is the issue, the summer is a good time to get your child the help he or she needs to be prepared to meet the expectations of the next grade level with confidence and the right tools for success.

Our  Speech Therapists implement the most effective language and speech strategies available utilizing individualized play-based treatment plans. Therapies provide the child the language processing skills needed to be a friend, a learner, and productive group member.

More than 70% of teachers believe that students who receive language and speech therapy demonstrate improved pre-reading, reading, or reading comprehension skills.

The stress free environment of a summer enrichment speech therapy program provides a child with the support needed, combining learning with play. Without all the expectations of school looming, a child can relax, enjoy and retain skills learned during each session.

The development of communication skills begins in infancy. Any communication issue is likely to have a significant effect on the child’s behavior and academic skills. The earlier a child’s speech and language problems are identified and treated, the less likely it is that problems will persist or get worse.

This year use the summer break as an opportunity to advance your child’s communication skills.

To continue current speech therapy over the summer or to set up a speech and language assessment, please give our office a call. We look forward to hearing from you.

Speech and Language Therapy – Helping Children Communicate



My Life as a Speech Language Pathologist

by Gina Costello, Director, Speech Dept., Child Success Center

The joy, intrigue and satisfaction of working with children as a speech-language pathologist.


Working as a Speech Language Pathologist, it’s hard to believe that I saw my first client 18 years ago. I remember the feeling I had leading up to that first session. It was a mixture of excitement, anticipation and a bit of anxiety knowing that I could help an individual communicate in their world and could have a positive impact on their life. It felt extraordinary!

After all of these years working as a speech language pathologist, I continue to feel the same level of joy and intrigue that I did when I was a new therapist. The difference is, now I have the experience,
patience and understanding to help my clients overcome their communication challenges. In essence, I have more “tools” in my toolbox!

There are many reasons why I love what I do! I’m always excited to try the latest therapy techniques and share new educational tools and tips with parents. I find great satisfaction giving parents
strategies and tips to try at home. As a result, families feel more empowered and so does the child.

Recently, a parent expressed how her relationship with her daughter has significantly improved since they started coming to therapy. She thanked me for being a partner in this process. It felt very gratifying to know that we worked as a team to improve her child’s life.

As a speech language pathologist, I’m constantly being challenged to come up with new and creative therapy activities. I love the freedom that I have in creating a session that suits the specific needs of a child. There’s no better experience than greeting a child in the waiting room and watching them race down the hall to my
therapy room with eager anticipation for the session.

One of my favorite parts of my job is the collaboration with other therapists and professionals in the community. The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to supporting a child who has a communication deficit.

Over the years the expertise, knowledge, advice and encouragement that I’ve received from other professionals has been invaluable. The best part of my job is watching a child grow into a confident and effective communicator. I have watched children go from being nonverbal to talking in sentences. I have seen children who were once very shy and timid become more confident and enthusiastic when communicating with their peers. Every day I work with families is a gift and a reminder of the positive impact I can have on their lives. I am continuously reminded of how fortunate and honored I am to have this opportunity!

More with Gina Costello and recognition of May – Better Hearing and Speech Month

Additional Resources for Parents:

Apraxia KIDS

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

Back-to-School – Working with Teachers to Identify Speech and Language Problems

Kids are Going Back to School – Working with your child’s teacher to identify speech and language problems early on is critical to ensuring his/her success at school.


Back to school- working with your child's teacher to identify speech and language issuesAs children return to the school classroom and play yard this year much will be expected of them in the areas of oral communication and listening skills. While the summer time offered great opportunity for children to build the sensory motor skills needed for playing and learning, they also had a break from the often complicated auditory and language world that school presents them.

If you have had concerns about the rate of your child’s speech acquisitions, their attention, socialization, ability to follow direction, answer questions, verbally problem solve, express themselves and emotionally handle communicating with their environment and those in it, we suggest you talk to your teachers at the beginning of the school year to make them aware of your concerns and to discuss ways  to help your child be successful. As parents we know more about our children’s strengths and challenges than anyone else. Give your teacher a head start by meeting with them either before school starts or within the first 4 weeks. Often when children struggle with sensory motor and or speech and language processing their behaviors can be misinterpreted as personality traits;  Controlling, sensitive, shy, aggressive, avoidant, rigid. Truth be told, these behaviors, if not properly identified, can hamper a child’s academic success as early as pre-school.  We are setting students up for success if we identify and support as early as possible.

Knowing who to turn to for information is key. Seek guidance from your school, pediatrician, friends and online. You will find answers. Sometimes it is very clear what your child’s speech and language needs are… “my child cannot say the “s “sound.” Other times it is not so clear… “My 3 year old is hitting at school, not using words to communicate easily and is always on the go.” The combination of Sensory Integration trained Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists working together is often critical when searching for the underlying root of the challenges your child is presenting with. A collaborative therapy center offers you, the parent, with guidance and a whole child approach as your child grows.

Not all communication challenges are rooted in a speech and language disorder. But it is imperative that this be ruled in or out through a thorough assessment process. If you child is under the age of 5 it should be a play based assessment and your child should be made to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible in a new environment. Make sure that the environment has play space and is not a small office. If your child is older make sure the therapist is skilled in identifying language based learning challenges and works closely with an educational therapist as these services often work side by side.

For more information on speech and language development and age related indicators that your child may need help please refer to this chart .

Speech and Language issues by the numbers:

Speech or language problems can lead to reading and writing difficulties which in turn lead to serious educational consequences.

  • Some 17-20% of children in the United States have difficulties learning to read.
  • More than 70% of teachers believe that students who receive speech and language services demonstrate improved pre-reading, reading, or reading comprehension skills.
  • Most poor readers have an early history of spoken language deficits.
  • A recent study reported that 2nd graders who read poorly had phonemic awareness or spoken language problems in kindergarten.
  • About 41% of fourth grade boys and 35% of fourth grade girls read below grade level.
  • Overall, communication disorders affect approximately 42 million Americans. Of these, 28 million have a hearing loss and 14 million have a speech or language disorder.

***Statistics provided by ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association



Learning to Read – Is Your Child at Risk?


Identifying risk factors in your child that could impair literacy skills.

kids learning to read

Children with language impairments often experience great difficulty learning to read and write. Other risk factors include: having a developmental disability, having a parent with a history of a reading disability, speaking a language that is different from the local academic curriculum, and/or living in a household where experiences with oral and written language are infrequent. Signs that your toddler may struggle with reading in the future include lack of interest in nursery rhymes or shared book reading, difficulty following simple directions, difficulty learning the names of letters, and failure to recognize or identify letters in the child’s own name (ASHA, 2008,

  • Nearly 50% of children enter kindergarten with at least one serious risk factor that may negatively affect academics (Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta, & Cox, 2000)
  • The best predictor of end-of-kindergarten literacy skill is beginning-of-kindergarten literacy skill (Walpole, Chow, & Justice, 2004)
  • The likelihood that a poor reader in first grade will stay a poor reader through fourth grade corresponds to a probability of .88 (Juel, 1988)

Speech-Language Pathologists Can Help

Research emphasizes the need to prevent reading problems through emergent literacy intervention. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can identify children at risk for reading and writing difficulties and provide intervention to remediate literacy-related difficulties. The intervention will be a collaboration between the parents, teachers, caregivers, and the SLP.

Learning to Read – What Can Parents Do to Help Their Child?

You can help your child develop literacy skills during regular activities without adding extra time to your day. There are also things you can do during planned play and reading times. Show your children that reading and writing are a part of everyday life and can be fun and enjoyable. Activities for preschool children include the following*:

  • Talk to your child and name objects, people, and events in the everyday environment.
  • Repeat your child’s strings of sounds (e.g., “dadadada, bababa”) and add to them.
  • Talk to your child during daily routine activities such as bath or mealtime and respond to his or her questions.
  • Draw your child’s attention to print in everyday settings such as traffic signs, store logos, and food containers.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words during holidays and special activities such as outings to the zoo or the park.
  • Engage your child in singing, rhyming games, and nursery rhymes.
  • Read picture and story books that focus on sounds, rhymes, and alliteration (words that start with the same sound, as found in Dr. Seuss books).
  • Reread your child’s favorite book(s).
  • Focus your child’s attention on books by pointing to words and pictures as you read.
  • Provide a variety of materials to encourage drawing and scribbling (e.g., crayons, paper, markers, finger paints).
  • Encourage your child to describe or tell a story about his/her drawing and write down the words (ASHA, 2006,
Child Success Center Reading Program - Learning to Read

Are Spoken Language and Literacy Connected?

YES! Spoken language is the foundation for the development of literacy skills. The experiences with talking and listening gained during the toddler and preschool years prepare children to learn to read and write. This means that children who enter school with weaker verbal abilities are much more likely to have trouble learning to read and write. Phonological awareness, the recognition that words are made up of separate speech sounds, is one skill that is very strongly connected to reading and writing. Phonological awareness skills include, but are not limited to, rhyming, blending sounds (e.g., combining the separate sounds b, a, and t into bat), alliteration (e.g., big bouncy bubbles), and isolating sounds (e.g., c is the first sound in cat). Children who perform well on these tasks are less likely to have difficulty learning to read.

Language Development

Language Development
Hearing your child speak their first word is exciting. Each parent anticipates their child calling their name first and then using new and different words; however, as a child builds his/her vocabulary and begins to put words together to produce phrases and sentences, what comes next? How does a parent know what typical language development looks like until we begin to compare to children? What child is the best “typical” language model? Let’s review narrative development to understand the stages of language development
According to Hedberg & Westby (1993), there are several types of narratives.

• Scripts: This form of narrative is used to express knowledge of a familiar, recurring event. It is usually told using the second person pronoun you and the
present tense.
• Recounts: This involves telling about a personal experience when prompted most often using the past tense.
• Accounts: We explain a personal experience without a prompt. The experience is usually not shared by the listener.
• Event Casts: Explaining an ongoing activity, reporting on a factual scene, or telling about a future plan.
• Fictional Stories: Relating past, present, or future events that are not real. The events being described focus on someone or something attempting to carry
out a goal.

According to Hedburg & Stoel-Gammon (1986), the stages of narrative development are broken into three different stages; however, stage III has a few sub-stages. Review the following stages:

Stage I: 2 years old Heaps

After a child builds his/her vocabulary using a variety of words, including nouns, action words (i.e. verbs), location words (i.e. prepositions), descriptive words (i.e. adjectives, adverbs), early pronouns, and social function words, a child will begin to form phrases and eventually sentences. These “stories” consist primarily of labels and descriptions of events and/or actions. There is no central theme or organization among the propositions. Sentences are usually simple declaratives. This stage consists of a collection of unrelated ideas. The topic of discussion frequently changes and the cohesive devices are not utilized to connect the story. Simple present progressive tense is used. This is considered a heap story.
Example: “A girl is eating cookies. The man is going to the car. The baby is sleeping.”

Stage II: 2-3 years old Sequences

As language continues to develop, a child will enter into the stage of sequenced stories. Sequenced stories consist of labeling events around a central theme, character, or setting. There is a description of what a character has done, but there is nothing in the story that is considered a plot and the events do not typically follow temporally or casually from one another. A child may begin to link story elements together.
Example: “She lives with her dad. She lives with her mother. Grandma and Grandpa live together. And these three children live with their grandma. And these two animals live with them.”

Stage III: 3-4 years old Primitive Narratives

After a child has developed his/her sequenced stories, a child begins to develop primitive narratives. These stories have a core/central person, object, and/or event. They contain 3 of the story grammar elements: an initiating event, an attempt or action, and some consequence around the central theme. These stories do not have a solid resolution or ending and contain little to no evidence of the characters’ motivation. These narratives build on the sequenced stories. It contains a central character, topic, or setting; however, the child begins to discuss the character’s facial expressions or body postures.
Example: “My dad, he went up to go to work. My mom stayed and sleep in. My two brothers, they went to go play with the toys. My dog, she went outside. My kitty cat came up and he tickled me and came up and started to meow. And then I started to cry because he bit me. And my brothers came runnin’ in and Mike said, “What happened?” They said, “What happened?” “My kitty cat just bit me.” So mom comes runnin’ in and she said, “What happened? Oh the kitty cat bit you. O.K.”

Unfocused Chains: 4-4 ½ years old

A chain narrative is a story that shows some evidence of cause/effect and temporal relationships; however, the plot is not strong and does not build on the attributes or motivations of characters. Although, there may be some notion of plan or character motivation present. The ending does not necessarily follow logically from the events. The story may be very abrupt. These stories contain 4 story grammar elements, which include those found in the primitive narrative level: initiating the event, attempt or action, and some consequence around the central theme. An unfocused chain does not utilize a central character. It is a sequence of events linked together logically or with a cause-effect relationship. Conjuctions, such as “and”, “but”, and “because” may be used when telling an unfocused chain story.
Example: “This man is walking. He saw a dog and a cat and he saw a girl too, with the cat and the dog. He said, “Hello.” He walked back and he said, “Brother, come here.” So her grandmother walked up to her and said, “You wanna go dancing?” They went dancing. And so it was a slow dance. And then they went back. And then these two children came. And then first he said, “I’m not.” And then he said, “What?” “I want to go out to eat.” So they went out to eat.”

Focused Chains: 5 years old

A focused chain contains a central character and a logical sequence of events; however, the listener must interpret the ending to this story. The sequences described during these accounts take the form of “adventures”.
Example: “Once upon a time there was a mother named Christie. And she had a husband named Tom. And they had some children named Heather and Christie. And they had a boy named Ronnie. And the mother told the boy to go outside to play. And then the boy came in and said, “Mother, mother, our dog’s outside and he’s barking.” “I will go see.’ “What are you barking at?” “I don’t know what he was barking at, Tommy, Ronnie, Ronnie. I don’t know what he was barking at. You go out there and see.” “He wants in.” “I’ll go let him in.” “There, I let him in.”

True Narratives: 5 + years old

By the age of 5, a child may be emergent in the true narrative story telling. These stories have a central theme, character, and plot. It includes the motivations behind the character’s actions, as well as logical and temporally ordered sequences of events. The ending of the story indicates a resolution to the problem. These stories include at least 5 story grammar elements, including an initiating event, an attempt or action, and a consequence.
Example: “One day there was a boy named Bobby and a girl named Sharon. They found a cat in their front yard and they brought it into the house. They fed the cat and they gave it some milk. They played and played with it and then a little while after a lady called and asked if anybody had seen her cat. And then they said that they had it at their house. And they brought it to the lady’s house. And she gave them each five dollars for finding the cat and having them feed it and give it milk.”

Story Grammars
Story Setting + Episode structure
Episode Initiating event+ internal response + plan + attempt +consequence + reaction
Setting Introduces the main characters, the protagonist, and the context of time and place
Initiating event The occurrence that influences the main character to action. It may be a natural event, an action, or an internal event such as a thought, perception, or wish
Internal response Indicates the thoughts and feelings of the main character in response to the initiating event. It may include an interpretation of the event, formulation of a goal or some other response.
Plan Indicates the intended action of the main character
Attempt Indicates the actions of the main character in pursuit of the goal
Consequence Indicates the achievement or non-achievement of the main character’s goal, as well as any other events or states that might result from the attempt
Reaction Includes any emotional or evaluative responses of the main character to the preceding chain of events

As a parent you may be thinking, “Wow, this is awesome, but how do I apply this knowledge to my child in our daily life!?!” Below is a chart that a parent and/or caregiver can do to further develop these skills in the home environment:
Activity What I can do to help:

Read a book:
• When reading a book, discuss the details on a specific page (e.g. what happened, who was involved, and where it happened)
• After the story, discuss these questions again and review the events in the book when reviewing the pictures- Do NOT expect your child to have the entire story memorized

Review a photo album:
• Review family members or past events telling the story of day your family spent camping or touring Disneyland, etc.
• This is helpful when relatives will be visiting from another city/state as their visits may be more infrequent

Retell events to the child’s day:
• Review the main points: Use words like “First, Next, Last” and remember to keep it simple. Children do not need an elaborate explanation. They need the facts.
• Work on sequencing getting dressed, or morning routines
• Daily routines are always exciting to practice sequencing

Retell events during a specific activity:
• If you are working on a craft, review how you created the craft (e.g. First, we cut the shapes out, then we glued the shapes together, and last, we cleaned our mess).
• Bake cookies and discuss the steps to make the cookies (Please, don’t go into the details of the ingredients—this will also help build a child’s vocabulary to discuss the meaning of new words (e.g. ingredients, recipe, etc.).
Story telling
• Before bed, make it a routine to tell stories using the theme, the characters, and the plot (e.g. teaching through a model).
If a child seems to have difficulty with developmentally appropriate tasks, caregivers may want to contact the primary educators and/or a speech-language pathologist for additional tips and help.

Remember, these ideas may work on building a child’s vocabulary, answering simple questions (e.g. yes/no, what, who, where), and sequencing events in the story through story telling/retell. Here are a few specific examples that may be helpful depending on the age of your child:

• Sequence the steps to the following activities
o Bake your favorite cookies
o Make rice krispie treats
o Make some homemade play doh:

o Create a trail mix to sequence steps: As there are many allergies out there, it may be best to create your own that is appropriate for your child and his/her needs
o If you plan on going on a trip, sequence the steps to packing your suitcase
o Play a game and sequence the steps for setting up, playing, and cleaning up (simplify when needed)
o Laura Numeroff books: If you Give your Mouse a Cookie; If you Give a Mouse a Muffin, If you Give a Pig a Pancake; If you Give a Dog a Doughnut; etc.
 Sequence the parts of the story using a few visuals:
o Pintrest would be another great craft idea option
• Thanksgiving Crafts
o Discuss Pilgrims:
o Gather Fall Leaves and a pinecone; Discuss the Fall season and the leaves falling/changing colors (Even if this does not typically happen in California, it is fun to discuss and may lead to researching the Fall Foliage around the country):
o Turkey Crafts:

• Holiday crafts

• DLTK is a helpful site and a great start to finding crafts, but the internet has endless ideas and it is always helpful to explore the internet and expand your own resources.

Information and specific examples gathered from:
Hutson-Nechkash, Peg (2001). Narrative Toolbox: Bleprints for Storbuilding. Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.

Child Success Center
2023 S. Westgate Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Call 310-899-9597 to access our “warm” line.
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