Why do certain kids qualify for private insurance but not for school speech therapy? What is the difference between a school-based speech language pathologist and a private one? Should my child receive speech services in school or privately? Or both?
There are two models in the world of speech and language therapy, the educational and the medical models. Both school based and private Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) have the same requirements to receive and maintain their licenses, and both kinds of SLPs are totally valid. School based SLPs are available to help children who meet eligibility for language, social skills, articulation, voice and other disorders to make educational progress. A private SLP treats the same disorders, to make functional progress.
School speech-language pathologists provide high quality treatment, but they are required to function according to school regulations. The ultimate goal for these therapists is to help the child benefit from an educational perspective. Schools are regulated by their states or governing bodies and have entrance and exit criteria set up by those bodies. In addition, there are certain differences between one district and another. Often the students are in small group sessions and do not have a lot of homework. However, the students can celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and it’s helpful for those in need of social instruction. A school SLP also observes children in their natural environment at recess, and lunchtime. They also have the ability to collaborate with other teachers. One major challenge for the school SLP is that they often have many children, making it difficult to provide individual sessions as most kids are seen in groups. But they are free for parents!
The goal of the private speech and language therapist is to help the child master communication goals as quickly as possible and generalize these newly acquired skills to other settings. There is no regulation by states or governing bodies, and the length of services are based upon clinical judgement depending on the child’s needs and parent’s availability. With private speech therapy, children receive a lot of one-on-one instruction, and parents are provided with homework and strategies to promote carryover in the home. This often results in very quick progress for the child. However, insurance will not always cover the sessions, depending on the company and the condition.
Since every child and every circumstance is different, I suggest that parents look at using both private and school based therapies and figuring out what works best for their particular circumstances. It’s also important to remember that even if the school or the insurance says that the child does not qualify for speech does not mean that the child won’t benefit from speech therapy. If you suspect that there is a delay, be in touch with your child’s teachers and listen to their opinions as well. Usually a combination of both school and private therapy, when available, is optimal.