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Aya Education - February 2024

Non-Instrumental Assessments of Swallowing: Do we know what we think we know?

Non-Instrumental Assessments of Swallowing: Do we know what we think we know?
Debra Suiter, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-S
August 25, 2016

To begin, we know that clinical swallow evaluations are sometimes all that clinicians have available to them in their facilities. Certainly, there are issues surrounding clinical swallow evaluations that we'll discuss during this presentation. We will cover what the evaluations should include, and what they can reliably detect based on bedside swallow evaluations or clinical swallow evaluations. We'll talk about non-instrumental means of assessment. When I think about non-instrumental means of assessment, it encompasses two different tasks: swallow screening and clinical swallow evaluation.

ASHA does have an official statement regarding what they view as a screening:

"Swallowing screening is a pass/fail procedure to identify individuals who require a comprehensive assessment of swallowing function or a referral for other professional and/or medical services" (ASHA, 2004, p.3-10).

What should stand out here is the fact that swallow screening is pass/fail. When we're screening for a swallowing disorder, we are indicating either “yes, this person likely has a swallowing disorder,” or “no, this person does not have a swallowing disorder.” It is definitely a pass/fail procedure versus an evaluation that is not a pass/fail procedure. That's one way in which it differs from evaluation.

debra suiter

Debra Suiter, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-S

Debra Suiter is Director of the University of Kentucky Voice and Swallow Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. Together with Dr. Steven Leder, Dr. Suiter developed the Yale Swallow Protocol, a tool for determining aspiration risk. Dr. Suiter’s research and clinical interests focus on assessment and treatment of adults with swallowing disorders. She is the current Chair of ASHA’s Board of Special Interest Coordinators, a member of the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders, and a member of the Dysphagia Research Society. 

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