By Sara Solet, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech Spot
Understanding if and how your child can benefit from school based and/or private based speech and language services can be confusing. As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) that has worked in both a school setting and a private practice for the past 18 years, I hear many questions:
The school said my child was OK—do I still need private services?
To qualify for speech and language services within the school setting, your child’s communication needs to be having an “adverse effect on his/her education”. This means that some area of their communication must fall significantly below that of their typical peers. There are many cases where a child’s communication skills are simply not “low enough” to qualify for school services, but they are lower than their typical peers. This is present most in the younger years. There is a range for all skills to develop. What may fall into an age-appropriate error as a kindergartner will be a delayed skill in first grade. Unfortunately, schools cannot qualify kids on what might happen, so a child that presents in the lower end of the normal will likely not qualify. The problem lies in that if that child does not develop that skill within the next year or two, that skill will now be delayed. Private speech and language services are not bound by these guidelines and can provide intervention for those children on the lower end of the normal range or just below the normal range. Instead of “waiting to see” if a skill develops, a private SLP can work to develop these skills and bring your child more in line with his/her typical peers.
My child has been going to private speech therapy and now qualifies for school services—should I bother with school services?
YES! Your private SLP may be wonderful, but s/he is not in your child’s school. The school-based SLP can help your child succeed in school in many ways. The SLP can consult with the teacher and staff so that they are able to understand and teach your child in the most effective way. The school SLP can add accommodations (if necessary) to a child’s IEP allowing your child to better access his/her education. School therapy has many benefits: it shows children that communication is part of learning and can incorporate classroom topics/vocabulary. When done in a group, children often gain acceptance of their struggle because they see that they are not the only one and/or can have a peer model for their targeted skills. The SLP can target the biggest areas of need and support the progress you have already made in private therapy!
My child qualified for services at school, would my child benefit from private services as well?
Almost always yes…if your time and budget allow for it, private services will only help your child gain more skills and likely do so in less time than school services alone. A school SLP’s time is in high demand. A school SLP must provide therapy services for MANY students along with testing, report/IEP writing, progress notes, attending meetings, teacher/staff consultations, billing, hearing screenings, and numerous other activities. As a result of this workload, services are often done in a group and the minutes of service may not be as high as you would hope for. As your child changes grades and schools, it is common for the SLP to change as well, but in private therapy you are likely to have a more consistent therapist. Change can be good, because using a skill with various people in various settings demonstrates true mastery; however, long term relationships allow a bond to develop thus allowing a therapist to truly push a child to achieve all they are capable of. Private therapy often allows for more intense therapy (year round) for your child and usually allows more direct contact between the parent and the SLP, allowing for parent education and teaching of skills and thus better carryover of skills at home.
We were doing private, but now my child qualifies for school—should I quit private?
If possible, continuing private therapy is usually a good idea. School services have some limitations. Because school SLP’s are bound by the IEP, only a few targeted goals can be addressed on a consistent basis. Private SLP’s have more freedom to address numerous goals, as well as a need that may pop up suddenly. School SLP’s usually provide therapy within a small group setting (which can often be beneficial), but private services tend to be one-on-one. Often private services can provide more minutes of therapy per session. Another point to consider is that most children do not receive services over the summer, so private is a way to continue developing while not in school!
The school is dismissing my child, should I continue with private services?
It is best to seek advice from a private SLP. It is possible that a dismissal from school services means that the issue is no longer having an adverse effect on education, not that it is completely remediated. (A good example of this is when a child has a lisp. The issue no longer impedes education, but you may not want your child to have a lisp the rest of his life). Private therapists are able to work with a child until the communication difficulty is completely remediated or has reached a level of maximum success.
Do school SLP’s and private work on the same goals/needs?
In an ideal world, the school and private SLP target the same skills. While the private SLP has more freedom to work on many skills, the school SLP can focus on the 3-5 biggest areas of need. While the parent may need to be the go-between or at least give release to communicate, consultation between a school SLP and a private SLP is most beneficial for a child and can provide great results!
While the SLP’s in both private and school based services are dedicated to helping your child, the nature of the placement dictates many variables of intervention. There are many factors to consider when determining what services to give your child. Communication develops rapidly in early childhood and often the more input the child can receive, the better!