There are different options available for early intervention and school-based speech therapy for children and students with speech-language needs.
If your infant is significantly behind on their developmental milestones, they may receive speech therapy as part of Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services from birth to age three. Once your toddler ages past 3, they may transfer services and attempt to qualify for speech therapy in the public schools.
Receiving ECI services is not a guaranteed admission into public school speech-language therapy. School districts determine eligibility for speech therapy based on:
- The presence of a disability
- The presence of an adverse effect on educational performance due to the disability
- The need for specially designed instruction or services needed to make progress in the academic environment
Often, although a student presents with a disability, there is no evidence of an adverse negative effect on the student’s educational performance, and therefore no need for specially designed instruction to make progress in the academic environment. Meaning no need for speech therapy as determined by the school district. Due to the requirement to show a negative adverse effect on education, one tendency may be for schools to more often provide therapy for severe-level impairments, as compared to mild speech impairments that have no adverse effect on a student’s academics.
There are several important factors to consider when seeking speech-language services in schools. Few realize that therapists in schools are consistently overwhelmed with caseload size, with Texas SLPs reporting some of the highest caseloads across the country. Also, students are pulled out of academic learning in order to receive therapy services during the school day. To some extent, students miss learning opportunities in other areas to participate in speech therapy. Most importantly, school-based speech therapy is delivered via small group instruction. So if you think qualifying for speech therapy gets your student a 1-on-1 opportunity to see a speech-language pathologist at school, think again.
School students share therapy session time, which is typically 30 minutes, in groups. Three to four children are present in most groups, as the therapist tries to address each child’s different goals in one 30-minute session. This delivery method impacts the quality of therapy delivered to students because the therapist’s attention is spread across a range of different needs. Group therapy can have benefits if your child is working on pragmatics and social language; however, if your child needs more direct attention to an articulation, speech-sound, or fluency disorder (e.g., a lisp, apraxia, severe stuttering), then they likely won’t be receiving the direct level of 1-on-1 needed for visible progress. Also, if a student has high levels of anxiety or shyness while addressing their personal goals during a group session, this could hinder their overall participation and progress in therapy.
Many parents who jump through the hoops of getting qualified for therapy in schools are startled to learn their perception of the 1-on-1 school-based speech therapy model is inaccurate. That’s because parents inherently recognize and know the value of focused and productive 1-on-1 therapy environments.
At PACT, we offer tailored, private 1-on-1 speech-language services adapted to your child’s or student’s specific needs, and provide comprehensive and engaging therapy. We offer specialized therapy methods and techniques (Hanen; PROMPT), and can fill in the gaps when school-based speech therapy isn’t yielding expected progress for your student. If you’re interested in personalized speech-language therapy services, please reach out.