Grants For Speech-Language Therapy

Speech Therapist Working with Child

Image source: youngtalkers.com

When my daughter was two, and asked “I want a dink, p’ease!,” it was sweet and endearing. When she got to three years old, we started coaching her on the “r,” but she didn’t seem quite ready. Now she’s almost five, and kindergarten starts in the fall. We’re wondering just how much of an issue this is.

Our pediatrician smilingly told us that there was nothing unusual about it, but yes, it would be a good idea to get some help on the “R” and maybe another sound or two.

The school probably has a speech therapist. But if my daughter starts kindergarten with a noticeable pronunciation challenge, and the other children aren’t kind about it, will those first two months set the tone for the whole year? Will they set the tone for grades one through six? I’d love to get this resolved before school starts, not after.

=== PRIVATE SPEECH THERAPY ===

Expert, friendly speech therapists are available. They are good at what they do, and we’ll see results. Great! We run into one holdup: sessions are $75 to $140 per hour, with the more experienced therapists at the higher end of that range. How many sessions will my daughter need? It’s possible that four or five sessions could deliver some progress, but for complete resolution, a common range is 20-30 sessions. A therapist who can hold my child’s attention, and provide her a positive experience with excellent results, is a skilled professional, and her services are in demand.

Up to $3,000? Are there grants available to help with this?

United Healthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCF) is a non-profit organization that helps parents who run into gaps in their health insurance coverage. To qualify, parents need to prove that the child has health insurance, and that the therapy is not covered by the health plan. Parents need to demonstrate financial hardship, that the speech-language pathology has been diagnosed, and that therapy will be beneficial.

If approved, funds up to $5,000 per year, or $7,500 lifetime, can be approved for the child. Payments will go directly to a licensed speech therapist. The UHCF’s website provides a pre-screening for potential applicants.

One major plus, if such a grant is approved, is that a $5,000 allotment would provide the therapist plenty of one-on-one time with a child, perhaps offering a lower-stress, more confident path to improvement. We won’t need to limit ourselves to half-hour weekly sessions that may be partially lost by the time the next session comes around.

The Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guarantees education and services for children with developmental challenges and disabilities. If a school does not maintain a speech-language pathologist on staff, it must procure one for students in need of such services.

The biggest advantage of therapy at school is the zero cost, and another major advantage is that the application process is much less rigorous than with third-party grants. However, this therapy may occur relatively late in a child’s development — for example, the p, h, m, w, and b sounds most typically occur at ages 12-36 months. In addition, other children may not always be kind about a child’s need to attend speech class. Parents may run into issues with waiting lists and strict qualifying criteria that are “just missed” by a child.

Still, for those families not able to afford private, pre-school therapy, and whose children have speech problems severe enough to meet the criteria, public school therapy casts a welcome safety net.

Scottish Rite Clinics, which are sponsored by the Masonic fraternity, are dedicated to helping children with speech disorders. If a family’s orientation and philosophy is compatible, this is a zero-cost alternative if there is a clinic in that family’s area. Waiting lists vary from city to city.

The United Way often can provide partial or total assistance to lower-income families with medical problems, including speech therapy. A local United Way chapter will consider a family’s application based on need.

Universities may provide low- or zero-cost treatment given by graduate students in search of degrees. Speech-language therapy problems can be compounded if an inexperienced therapist applies an ineffective method, so a therapist’s ability comes under consideration. However, for common and moderate problems, the skills offered by a graduate student may be a good match for a child.

=== PARENTAL SUPPORT ===

Many parents are delighted to find that, in some cases, they can themselves provide the help that their child needs. This may be particularly true if the child is in a “just missed” category, needing work on the articulation of a few sounds but otherwise having no developmental disability. Software applications, animations, and videos provide parents with opportunities to work with their own children, although it can be a bit difficult to get oriented in the sea of alternatives. A coherent, systematic treatment plan can be elusive, and may be more the province of the therapist than the parent.

A cutting-edge, systematic approach involves the Speech Buddy tools, which allow parents (and therapists) to help children learn correct tongue placement for many of the most common articulation challenges. The approach is inexpensive — starting at $149 — and emphasizes parental involvement along with an appealing process that many children find to be fun. According to this clinical study, almost 90% of children improved to highly accurate articulation in just eight sessions. For parents seeking a direct, positive way to help their children learn to articulate, tools such as these can offer the best of all worlds.

If a private therapist is the best choice for a child, there are a variety of grants and assistance programs that may be available. To make the best choice for your child, your pediatrician can suggest the options right for her.

Parent's Guide to Speech & Communication Challenges
Financial Resources