Has a family member said something to you recently about your child’s speech? Are you getting around to your ‘to do’ list? Concerned about your child’s speech and language development? If you don’t know a speech-language pathologist, here are some places to start looking:
Your insurance company
If you are looking to use insurance for your child’s speech and language therapy services, look online or call to find a local provider. Be sure to do your homework. Sometimes providers listed may be skilled nursing facilities or hospitals who may not work with children on a regular basis.
Depending on your plan’s coverage, you may be responsible for co-pays and the therapy coverage may be for a pre-determined number of visits each calendar year.
Your pediatrician will most likely be able to refer you to birth to three agency, a local clinic, or a pediatric speech-language pathologist. If your pediatrician is part of a medical or hospital group, s/he may first refer to a speech-language pathologist in their medical or hospital system.
If you are looking to use insurance, you may be able to find a speech-language pathologist at a hospital. Most hospitals with a therapy department have what is called outpatient therapy services for people in the community to come for services. If you go this route and it is not a pediatric hospital, be sure to ask if they typically work with children. While all speech-language pathologists have training to work with children, some settings are more kid-friendly than others with familiarity of child development and kid-friendly materials.
Birth to three programs
Depending on where you live in the United States, these programs may be called Birth to Three, Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), or Early Intervention. These programs serve children who are newborn just up to their third birthday.
You will typically need a pediatrician’s referral to begin services. These services are usually provided in your home or at the your child’s daycare provider. How each program works is different – some provide parent or caregiver training while others work directly with your child. Insurance will often be processed, and you will be responsible for any co-pays or deductibles.
If your child receives birth to three services when at the age of 2 years and 9 months, they will help you initiate the paperwork necessary to determine if your child will qualify for continued services through the public schools.
Public elementary school
If your child is coming out of a birth to three program, then your service coordinator will make the appropriate referral to your local school district around the time your child turns 2 years and 9 months. This way, all of the meetings, paperwork, and evaluations are complete so that your child can be services at the school for by age 3.
You can contact your local public school district’s special education office to learn more about what is required for a speech-language screening and/or evaluation. Some school districts have a monthly ‘child find’ program where children are screened for speech and language concerns. This may or may not be done at your neighborhood public elementary school. Others may have you make an appointment with your local public elementary school’s speech-language pathologist.
Public schools will always consider how any speech and/or language concerns affects the child’s learning. Just because your child does not qualify for speech/language therapy services in the school does not mean that your child will not benefit from therapy.
Each school district handles speech/language therapy differently for children ages 3-4. Some districts have a pre-school program for children with speech and language delays, some may have a 4K program, and others may have you visit a public school in your district 1-2x/week.
If your child is kindergarten or older, then services are provided during the school day.
Your child is eligible to receive services through your public school district, even if you send your child to a private or parochial pre-school or school. Some school districts have speech-language pathologists who drive to the pre-school, private school, or parochial schools. Others have the parents of non-public school children transport the students to the school for services.
If you are looking for speech-language therapy services to supplement your child’s birth to three experience, pre-school therapy, public school therapy, or because your child did not qualify for services in the public school, or to avoid summer slide if public school services are not provided during the summertime, then private practices might be for you.
Inquire if the practice takes insurance. If they do not, then ask if they can provider a superbill, which provides an itemized list of services and fees. These can often be submitted for health savings account and flexible savings accounts for reimbursement.
If your child already has a recent speech-language evaluation from a clinic or a school, then these can usually be taken to a private practice.