Using Developmental Norms for Speech Sounds as a Means of Determining Treatment Eligibility in Schools

Holly L. Storkel
  • Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, February 2019, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
  • DOI: 10.1044/2018_pers-sig1-2018-0014

Best practices in using norms to determine who qualifies for speech treatment in schools

What is it about?

This article revisits “classic” speech sound norms to examine how the data were collected and how the data were intended to be used to inform which children qualify for speech treatment in schools. This review shows that normal development can not be reduced to a single age cut-off to determine eligibility for speech treatment. The range and variability of normal development needs to be considered when making clinical decisions. Moreover, it is not appropriate to use only a single measure of speech sound development. Developmental norms need to be combined with other measures to obtain a rich understanding of a child’s strengths and weaknesses in speech sound production. State and local guidelines may not be aligned with these best practice guidelines. SLPs may need to advocate for change in state and local guidelines.

Why is it important?

There is controversy surrounding the role of developmental norms in determining who qualifies for speech sound treatment in schools. Revisiting the original normative studies and thinking about what normative data tell us and don’t tell us helps us understand how to effectively use developmental norms in clinical decision making.


Professor Holly Storkel
University of Kansas

Making sound clinical decisions is tough. Most SLPs do this under less than ideal conditions. I hope that this article and the others in the special forum can be viewed as ammunition to advocate for a realistic allotment of time to conduct a comprehensive assessment, including time to think about the results and implications of that assessment.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Holly Storkel