The Importance of Probes

So much of my therapy focuses on articulation goals since I follow the 5 Minute Kids Therapy model and I am the only full-time therapist in my school. Each year I give the students 3 different probes. No I am not talking about poking them with something. According to Webster Dictionary, probe can mean a careful investigation or examination of something. I use the Secord Contextual Articulation Test (S-CAT) to conduct my probes. The first is given at the beginning of the year before formal therapy begins. Since many of my students are new to my school (4th graders starting intermediate school) I don’t have a lot of information to begin planning targets. Often the IEPs tell me how they were doing last year but since we have to write our IEPs in March a student can gain a lot of progress from that time through August when school begins again. I use the S-CAT Pretest for the sounds I want more information about.

The next probe is conducted in January at the end of the first semester. At the half way point of the year, I like to show students their growth and have updated information for progress reports to be sent home. For this probe, I compiled a word list for each sound touching on each position from the word list provided in the S-CAT. The final probe is completed in May to show yearly growth. I use the post test from S-CAT for the final probe of the year.

3  important reasons to conduct probes:

1. Set targets: Probes are important to establish what exact targets a student needs to work on. I have found errors that were not listed on the IEP within the present levels or goals. It also lets you know when a student may be able to produce the sound correctly. That is one aspect of the S-CAT that I like. Within the probes provided, it test the target sound before and after each phoneme. It gives you a better idea of how to help the child produce the sound correctly based on when they make the sound correctly.

2. Tracking Progress: If you are like me you love data and visually seeing what kind of progress is being made. It is helpful for not only me but for the students, parents, teachers, and administration as well to see the results of therapy and practice. This year I made one of my Professional Development Goals for my evaluation based on the growth of my students progress throughout the 3 probes. I am tracking their progress in an excel spreadsheet so I can show my administration the results of articulation therapy. I just completed the mid-year probes and found amazing progress in my students. One student increased his production of the /s/ phoneme by 92 % (8% accuracy when probed in August, 100% accuracy when probed in January)!!

3. Students’ accountability: With the collection of data, students are able to track how they are doing. They can see by the increase or decrease in their accuracy if what they are doing is working or not. Once we complete each probe we discuss personal goals and how they can improve their accuracy. It is often clear to students that the results are based on the amount of effort that they put into their therapy sessions as well as the amount of time they put into practice outside of the therapy room. This can be a big motivator.

I use the S-CAT for my probes but you can use any word list that you have available. I recommend using a different word list for each probe. Save the list you compile to reuse each year. I also use sentence probes for my students that are beyond the word level. I get these sentence list from Webber’s Jumbo Articulation Drill Book and the 5 Minute Kids Series. If necessary I also may collect a conversational  and reading sample if the student is at that high of an accuracy level.

I encourage you to use probes within your therapy room to help students meet their articulation goals. Please share in the comments how you collect data and what kinds of probes you use.

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