Does My Child Need Speech Therapy? Navigating Public and Private Therapy Options in Texas
Is there something about your child’s communication that has you worried?
Are there some sounds that he still can’t say correctly?
Does she have trouble finding the right words?
Will he outgrow that stutter?
In my family, my husband was concerned when our son substituted his /th/ sound with /f/. He’d ask me, “When can you start your speech thingy with Henry so he can finally say ‘think’ instead of ‘fink?’” We, like many parents, wanted to help our son correct the sound at the earliest possible stage and before the habit became harder to break. Like us, you may share these types of concerns.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1 in 12 children in the U.S. has had a communication or swallowing disorder in just the last year.
In short, you’re not alone. And thankfully, the great state of Texas has some good speech therapy options available. Now let’s explore them and establish a game plan!
What every family can do
Parents and siblings are the first line of support for children with speech and language challenges. Providing kids with a good model of appropriate speech and language skills can help a child who is struggling.
For example, you can answer your child’s one-word comment with a longer phrase - a simple activity that can make a noticeable impact. If she says “dog,” you can respond with “Yes! The dog is walking!”, getting in an action word as well as a label.
Siblings, cousins, and friends can also be a great resource to practice peer-interactions, following directions, and appropriate behavior during play.
Yep, time with friends and family can really help!
If you notice an area of weakness or a persisting problem, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help you consider whether you should begin with activities at home or if a screening or evaluation is more appropriate. Now, let's see what publicly run programs in Texas can do for you.
What public programs in Texas can do for your child
Each state has funded programs to assist children with learning disabilities, including speech impairments - God bless America!
In Texas, we have:
Early Childhood Intervention (ECI);
the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD);
and the Texas Education Agency’s special education program.
All of these were put into place in response to special education laws to ensure that children with delays and/or disorders that impair their ability to learn can receive the help they need.
Let’s start with the teeny tinies - babies and toddlers
Early childhood intervention (ECI) provides a variety of services for children 0-36 months old (under 3 years), usually at a child’s home or childcare setting. To determine eligibility for state-funded ECI services, a child will be evaluated at no cost to the family using the Battelle Developmental Inventory 2nd edition; (BDI-2).
Ok, get ready for a little bit of technical wording...
Simply stated: The BDI-2 uses a scoring system that identifies developmental delay in terms of percentage of delay compared to other children of the same age. For a child to qualify for speech therapy services with ECI he or she must have a communication delay of 25% or more.
You may be thinking, "Right...so what does that mean exactly?
Translation: The children who need the most help will receive it!
But what about the children who have "only" a 23% delay in communication?
Although professionals testing the child might recognize that he has a mild delay and would benefit from early intervention by a speech therapist, occupational therapist, and/or physical therapist, they could not offer assistance unless he falls further behind.
It’s also good to bear in mind that, families who have the ability to pay will share in the cost of services after evaluation. There is a sliding scale to determine the maximum amount a family will pay.
This means that if a family’s household income is more than around $100k, private therapy becomes no more expensive than the state-funded program.
Ready to hear what Uncle Sam can do for your preschooler or school-age kiddo? Let’s move on!
Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) | Special Education
School-based services are provided through the public school districts and are designed for children aged 3-17 years old. Yes, you can take your 3-5-year-old up to the school you are zoned to if you are concerned about her speech and language development.
Like ECI programs, schools are also held to strict eligibility criteria established by their state region. Regions vary slightly in their requirements and Texas has 20 regions. Speech therapy services in Montgomery, TX, fall under Region 6.
Now grab a cup of coffee because I’ve got a little more technical information for you...
The process for establishing whether your child qualifies for school-based speech and language therapy has many steps. Let’s look at an example of what these steps can include:
Identifying a speech and language concern
Implementing classroom interventions
Conducting a screening
Performing a full individual evaluation to obtain eligibility information
Proving a negative impact in the school setting.
Determining what therapy, how much, and how often
Special education law allows teachers, speech language pathologists and other professionals to work with students who are struggling most in the school environment.
The bottom line is this - kids with Standard Scores of 77 or less (7th percentile or below) on their formal assessment can qualify for therapy at school.
Again, where does that leave the children with a mild disorder, borderline scores, or whose speech and language challenges are not causing immediate problems in the school setting?
Your child may be making single sound errors, BUT because he has passing grades, is participating in class discussions, and has friends at school, he’s NOT eligible for school-based therapy. Why not?!!
Truth: If all children near or on the borderline qualified, school SLPs would face the impossible task of providing quality therapy to a very large number of children.
But even mild to moderate disorders or disturbances can ultimately have a profound effect on all aspects of your child's life. Language and communication skills are SO important. If your needs have not been met by the state, don't worry - there are other ways to help your child. Read on to find out the benefits of private therapy!
5 Benefits of private speech therapy
Private clinics are different.
1. If a speech and language challenge is noticed, your child can be tested right away. Whether your child has a borderline, mild disorder, or a more severe one, he can receive services at the clinician’s discretion and according to your preference.
Private therapists are not bound by their state's or other governing bodies’ strict eligibility guidelines.
2. Private speech therapy is tailored to each individual child - most of the time, he or she is in one-on-one sessions with the therapist. Even if his session is delivered within a daycare or preschool classroom, the therapist is there to give all of her attention to working on one child’s goals.
As a therapist who has formerly worked in a large, urban school district, I know first-hand that as much as school SLPs would like to, there are few opportunities to focus on only one child per session.
(Shout out to my fellow SLPs and tireless peers doing a great job with limited resources! Trust me, simultaneously treating 3-4 kids with different goals has its challenges.)
3. With private therapy, there is no reason to limit the length and frequency of sessions. It’s totally up to the therapist and parents’ discretion. School-based services, on the other hand, may be determined by adding evaluation information into a matrix of some sort to decide the maximum number of minutes a student receives.
4. Many private clinics offer therapy at locations that are convenient for today’s busy lifestyles. (I certainly know the challenges of juggling work, after-school activities, the dog, etc, etc, etc...!) Therapy can take place when and where it is most convenient for you and your child - including your home, your child’s daycare, preschool, or private school.
Remember - more frequent, intense sessions may result in a shorter duration of therapy overall.
5. Speech therapists in private clinics often have more opportunities to communicate with parents. Private therapists can build in time to discuss progress and give continued advice and activities for carry-over of speech and language goals during day to day family life.
So don’t delay, give your child the best chance to overcome their speech challenges early, where they’re most comfortable, and where therapy is personalized to their individual needs. To explore how to best meet your child’s needs with private therapy, contact Montgomery Speech Therapy now.
At Montgomery Speech Therapy (MST), we offer play-based and family-centered speech therapy for toddlers and preschoolers. With individual therapy sessions from our home studio or your child’s home or school setting, our aim is to provide fun, motivating activities that drive your child toward becoming a confident and effective communicator.