Improving Speech-Language Pathology Report Writing:
The Referral

Alleviate report-writing stress by improving your referral process when conducting a speech and language evaluation. Gain insights into how a well-written report often starts with clear referral questions!

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easyReportPRO Referral

Take Time to Streamline!

As school-based speech-language pathologists, we understand the importance of writing comprehensive and organized reports to communicate our students' communication abilities and support needs to educators and caregivers. However, report writing can be challenging and time-consuming, especially for new SLPs.  However, finding ways to streamline the report writing process can save hours the next time you conduct an evaluation.

There are three main reasons why SLPs need to streamline their report writing process:

  1. Saves time and increases productivity.
  2. Increases consistency and accuracy.
  3. Improves communication and collaboration.
Streamlining aspects of the evaluation process is a great way to improve productivity for SLPs (Prath, 2020) starting with the referral process. SLPs can use standardized referral protocols to increase consistency and focus on the testing areas. This match-up between areas of concern and areas assessed is crucial for effective communication between SLPs, educators, caregivers, and other professionals. When all stakeholders agree, improved communication and collaboration can lead to more effective treatment and better student outcomes.

The Referral Question

To start off, let's talk about the Referral Question or Statement, often the first section of a school-based report that often follows the identifying information or demographics. 

What is it?  The referral question is one of the most crucial parts of any SLP report, as it sets the tone for the rest of the document. It highlights the specific concerns that educators or caregivers have regarding a student's communication abilities.

Where does it go? In the report, the referral question should be included at the beginning, and it should be clearly stated. It should explain the specific areas of concern and why the assessment was requested. This provides a framework for the rest of the report and guides the assessment process.

How do SLPs get it?  The referral question is typically obtained from the referral form, parent or teacher email, or through a conversation or pre-referral interview.  A well-designed referral form should ask for specific areas (rather than general areas) of concern from the educators or caregivers who are asking for an evaluation. This information will help the SLP to better understand the student's communication needs, specific concerns noted, and identify the specific tools used in the assessment.

Streamlining Strategy: A clear and comprehensive referral form!  This form will ultimately save time and effort by ensuring that the SLP has all the necessary information to conduct an evaluation.

Click Here for a Sample Referral Form

Example: To give an example, let's consider a referral form for a student with expressive language concerns. From the form, the reasons for referral may read, "Please evaluate Johnny for expressive language abilities. He struggles to communicate his thoughts and ideas effectively, and his teacher reports he is having difficulty in class."

When incorporating the referral concern or question into the report, it should be written in a clear and concise manner, using specific language that accurately reflects the concerns.  Here are two ways the referral concerns could be presented in a report:

Example 1:
Johnny was referred for this evaluation due to concerns with his expressive language abilities.  The purpose of this evaluation is to determine if there are any deficits in grammar, vocabulary, or pragmatics that may be impacting his academic performance.

Example 2:
Johnny was referred for this assessment to address the following question:

Does Johnny present with an expressive language delay or disorder that impacts his ability to access academic content?

Top 3 Tips

  1. To save time and reduce errors in your report writing, use templates that list possible referral questions. You can choose to use narrative-based or question-based formats, depending on your preference.
  2. If you do not get the specific information you need to help guide your assessment, send a follow up email to the educator with specific questions about the area of concern.
  3. If you want a faster and more automated way of adding referral questions to your report, you can try using It provides a selection of multiple-choice referral questions that you can choose from, and it will automatically input them into your report.
The takeaway: Having a clear and well-stated referral question is critical for ensuring that the report accurately reflects the concerns of the referral, and that also guides appropriate interventions and recommendations are provided.  Check out this blog by The Dabbling Speechie on the referral process!

Next up in the series is the Sources of Information!


The Dabbling Speechie. (2018, August). Speech Therapy Referrals.

Prath, S. (2017, October 1). Make the Speech Referral Process Work for You. The ASHA Leader.

About Michelle: Michelle is the co-founder and lead clinical developer of easyReportPRO, a powerful software that helps speech-language pathologists (SLPs) create high-quality diagnostic reports quickly and easily.

Michelle's expertise in telepractice and technology-enabled strategies, combined with her personal experience of burnout and considering leaving the SLP profession, gives her a unique understanding of the challenges SLPs face, especially when it comes to the high workload of writing diagnostic reports. With this blog, Michelle aims to share her knowledge and experience to help SLPs use technology to optimize their report writing process, save time, and achieve a better work-life balance.

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