Assessing Scottish Speech Sound Disorders: An Analysis of Assessment Tools’ Compliance with Good Practice Guidelines for the Transcription of Children’s Speech
Background: There is a high prevalence of developmental speech difficulties in the UK, and speech sound disorders (SSDs) often make up a large portion of individual clinical caseloads. Children with SSD are shown to have an increased risk of difficulty in areas such as social integration, literacy and education. Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) play an important role in improving outcomes for children with SSD by providing timely involvement. This relies on a process of efficient, effective assessment and diagnosis which forms a basis for successful therapeutic intervention. Aims: This study aimed to determine whether published speech sound assessments commonly used by paediatric SLTs in Scotland elicit sufficient speech sound data to make an informed diagnosis of SSD. Effectiveness of the assessments was measured by comparison to the Good Practice Guidelines for the Transcription of Children’s Speech issued by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT). Method: Using Scottish Standard English (SSE) as the target accent, the word lists of eight speech sound assessments were analysed according to pre-determined phonetic and phonological criteria as a measure of content validity. In parallel with this analysis, data was collected via a questionnaire which sought to explore current SLTs’ practices regarding the assessment of SSD. Results: None of the eight assessments analysed were able to fulfil all pre-determined criteria for completeness. Respondents to the survey (n=9) indicated that they had used six of these assessments in the past year to assess phonological delays or disorders. They also reported that access to resources was the most common factor which influenced their decision to use a particular speech sound assessment. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that many of the published speech sound assessments currently in use in Scottish clinics do not match good practice guidelines recommended by the RCSLT. SLTs working with paediatric caseloads should be supported to expand their battery of speech sound assessments to ensure that the process of diagnosing SSD is as rigorous and complete as possible.