Why Are Speech and Hearing Screenings Necessary for Kindergarteners?

As your child begins Kindergarten, you’ll need to prepare him or her for the many tests that lie ahead over the years. But there are a few that require no studying. The Ohio Department of Education recommends that ALL children entering Kindergarten have a developmental screening. This screening does not determine eligibility for kindergarten, rather identifies who may need intervention or additional therapy services. As part of the screening, the child’s overall developmental areas are assessed: gross motor (hopping/jumping), fine motor (using scissors/holding a pencil), speech and language, vision, hearing, medical diagnoses, and other developmental disorders. The family has the right to sign a waiver to opt out of the Kindergarten screening for their child.

The speech and language screening allows a speech-language pathologist to observe the child’s language understanding and use, production of speech sounds, vocal and nasal quality,  and social language skills. The screening is typically a checklist that a speech-language pathologist administers in approximately 15-20 minutes. Most screening tools yield a “pass” or “did not pass” if there are areas of concern. If a child did not pass the screening, a comprehensive full speech-language evaluation is typically recommended. Following this process, an intervention plan is created and proposed if needed.

Speech and language skills are used in every part of learning and communicating with other children in school. In Kindergarten, children learn the routine and structure of a typical school day and need to be able to follow directions, understand ideas learned in class, communicate well with their classmates and teachers, practice beginning reading and use appropriate social skills within the classroom and during play.

A hearing screening is part of an exam that evaluates a person’s ability to hear by measuring the ability of sound to travel through the hearing nerves the brain. Hearing screenings help determine if there is a possible temporary or permanent hearing loss.  The screening is typically a hand raising game an audiologist administers in approximately 10 minutes. Most screening tools yield a “pass” or “did not pass” if there are soft sounds that are not heard. If a child did not pass the screening, a comprehensive full hearing test is typically recommended. Normal hearing in children is important for normal language development.  If a child has hearing problems, it can cause problems with their ability to learn, speak or understand language.  For this reason, many schools routinely provide hearing tests when children first begin school.

In this chart, the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association (ASHA) breaks down the milestones, both hearing and understanding and talking, that are expected of children beginning Kindergarten.

ASHA recommends several ways that parents and caregivers can help children meet these milestones, including:

  • Ask children to identify objects based on descriptive clues
  • Ask children to give you directions and follow them
  • Give children your full, undivided attention when they speak
  • Allow children to respond to you
  • Practice building vocabulary
  • Encourage children to ask questions if they don’t understand what a word means
  • Read stories with age-appropriate plots
  • Ask questions – Who? What? When? Where? Why?
  • Include children in planning and discussing activities
Jessica Bullock, MA/CCC-SLP
Jessica Bullock is a staff Speech-Language Pathologist at Nationwide Children’s Westerville Close to Home. She has been in the field for 18 years with an extensive background with the pediatric population. She is licensed by The Ohio Speech Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence through the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

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