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Speech and cognitive assessments: why do I need one and why is it important?

Marissa Russell, MS, CCC-SLP | Traumatic brain injury, Stroke, Aphasia

After an individual experiences a stroke, brain injury, or a diagnosis of a neurological disorder such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s typical to participate in one or multiple speech, language, and cognitive assessments. Assessments are an important part of the recovery or rehabilitation process. When using Constant Therapy, the program will start out with an assessment to determine what exercises to deliver to you in support of your unique goals. Read on to get answers to some of the questions we’ve heard from you about assessments.

What is an assessment?

An assessment is a tool or measure that involves sets of questions, exercises, or tasks that evaluate your performance in certain areas. For example, a licensed speech-language pathologist will use assessments to better understand your speech, language, and cognitive skills and the role they play in your day-to-day life. The information gathered from these assessments highlights strengths, areas in need of improvement, and skills in need of further evaluation. 

Why am I being assessed?

An assessment can be used for many reasons. Some assessments are used to support the diagnosis of conditions such as aphasia, apraxia, dysarthria, and their severity. They may also allow for further specification of diagnoses (e.g., aphasia may be divided into different types, such as Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasias). Additionally, assessments can be used to monitor progress throughout in-clinic therapy and home practice to see how skills have progressed over time. 

What types of assessments are there?

Broadly, assessments can be divided into two categories – formal and informal. Often, a clinician will decide which type is best for you based on your needs and abilities at the time of assessment.

Formal assessments are standardized, which means they are scientifically developed evaluation tools that have been shown to be statistically reliable (consistent) and valid (actually measure what they claim to measure). They are administered to every test-taker in the same manner, allowing licensed clinicians to assess an individual’s speech, language, and cognitive ability and determine whether those abilities are as they would expect.

Informal assessments are not standardized, which means they do not have to be administered to everyone in the same way. While this means that scores cannot be compared in all the ways that a formal assessment can be, informal assessments allow for a more personalized evaluation of skills because they can be tailored to an individual’s unique needs and abilities. Beyond skills such as speech, language, and cognition, they can also touch upon factors such as quality of life and communication confidence. Constant Therapy uses informal assessments to ensure that your therapy is effective and relevant to the skills you need to work on.

All assessments only provide a snapshot of speech, language, and or/cognitive abilities. These skill areas are complicated, so combining different types of assessments with other tools such as medical history, interviews, and observations can help provide a more complete picture of strengths and areas for improvement. 

How does Constant Therapy utilize assessments?

As a patient, when you sign up for a Constant Therapy account, our program provides customized assessments at the very beginning that help the program determine which exercises to start you off with and how difficult to make them. We base these assessments on your initial responses when we asked what skills you need to work on. As you progress through the program, our artificial intelligence system, the NeuroPerformance Engine, is continuously assessing your progress and providing new therapy exercises to you based on how well you are doing. If you are doing well, the program will provide you with harder tasks. If you are struggling, the program will provide you with easier tasks. If the program sees an area related to the skills that you are working on that might be helpful for you to work on, the program will ask if you would like to be assessed in that area.

Assessments are an important part of the recovery process. If you haven’t already had one (by using Constant Therapy for example) and you think you may benefit from a speech, language, or cognitive assessment, ask your doctor if speech-language therapy is a good fit for you. To find a speech-language pathologist near you, use ASHA ProFind.

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