In my last post I talked about finding a Speech-Language Pathologist if you were concerned about your child's speech or language development. I thought it might be helpful to dedicate an entire post about the different programs that are available.
Infants & Toddlers:
Many people are not aware that every state in the United States has an Infant-Toddler Program that provides home based therapy services to children 0-3 years of age. These services are often provided at no charge to the family. However, more and more states are implementing a sliding fee scale for some families, or billing insurances if the family has private insurance. Each state is different, so it is best to ask about how services are covered when you call to refer your child. There are a range of therapies that are available to your child depending on their area of concern, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, developmental therapy, clinical services for parents and families, service coordination, etc. You can talk with your child's pediatrician about making a referral, or you yourself can call. Just go to this website, click on your state, and call the number provided. They will take down your information and a service coordinator will call you back to start the intake process.
If your child is 3 years or older you can call your local school district. Each district is different, but some have screening days throughout the year. Others will have you schedule directly with the Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Either way, they will do a quick screening on your child and determine whether or not a full assessment is needed. If your child qualifies for services through the school district, you would take them to the school, usually once a week, where they would be seen directly by the SLP. Sometimes children are seen in pairs or small groups in the schools. If your child has other areas of concerns, a full developmental assessment may be done to determine whether they would benefit from attending a special education preschool. If they qualified, children usually attend 2-4 days per week, again depending on the district. More and more of these programs have typical peer models that attend as well. Speech therapy is usually provided in the preschool classroom if your child attends, but some pull-out services may be provided as well.*
Once again, if your child is already attending school and you become concerned about their speech or language skills, the school district is one option for seeking out speech services. You can talk with your child's teacher about your concerns and ask if he/she can make a referral to the school SLP. Or you can contact the SLP at your child's school directly. If your child qualifies for services, they would see the school Speech Therapist once or twice a week, most likely in a small group.*
* More and more states are using Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLPA) to provide direct speech therapy to your child in the schools. This means they have a bachelors degree in speech-language pathology, but have not completed their masters degree, which is required to become a certified speech-language pathologist. The Speech-Language Pathologist would supervise the SLPA, and would most likely see your child occasionally. For more information about SLPA's, ASHA has a great FAQ section you can check out.
- Private Clinics: If your child does not qualify for services through the Infant-Toddler Program or the school district you can still seek out services privately. You would need to talk with your child's pediatrician about making a referral if going through your insurance. Or if you are paying out of pocket you can contact a clinic directly. Sometimes a quick google search will bring up several clinics in your area, or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (AHSA) has a section where you can search for certified SLPs in your area. If your child is evaluated and demonstrates delays in their speech or language skills and speech therapy is recommended, they would see a Speech-Language Pathologist 1-2 times a week. This would be at the clinic and your child would be seen in a one on one setting with the SLP.
- Hospitals: Hospitals provide outpatient services either at the hospital or at different locations throughout your area. Again, talk to your pediatrician about making a referral to the hospital. An evaluation would be completed to determine whether speech therapy services are needed. If recommended, your child would be seen 1-2 times a week at the outpatient clinic closest to you.
- State Agencies for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing: If your child has a hearing loss, speech therapy services are sometimes provided by your local agency for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. SLPs working for these agencies specialize in working with children with hearing loss and are often fluent is ASL. For more information, here is a list of agencies in each state.
- Universities: If you live in a city close to a university, you may want to check to see if they offer a speech-language pathology program. If they do, they will have a clinic where graduate students provide speech therapy at a reduced cost. The graduate students are supervised by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist.
- Scottish Rite Masons: Some cities have Scottish Rite Speech Therapy Centers that offer speech therapy services free of charge. There is an application process and if your child is chosen, services are provided 1-2 times a week. You would have to do a search (Scottish Rite Speech Therapy City, State) to see if there is a program available in your area.
Sometimes clinics or agencies have waitlists, which means that your child's services will be delayed until a SLP has an opening. If this happens, I encourage you to check out different agencies or clinics in your area to see if they have immediate openings or if their waitlist is smaller.
Good luck with your search, and let me know if I missed any agencies or resources for seeking out speech therapy!