How to pay for Speech Therapy? 3 Families, 3 Approaches
Particularly since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the public options available to parents to cover the costs of speech therapy have been gradually tightening. I have seen many children in my practice who previously would easily qualify for services, but now are turned away, making the question of “how to pay for speech therapy” even more challenging.
In some cases, the Early Intervention evaluations parents recommend that a child receive services, but that the Early Intervention program itself will not be able to provide the services. Also, depending on the state and your health plan, insurance coverage for speech therapy insurance can be limited. What do you do when you are told your child needs speech and language services and you, the parent, are left wondering how to pay for speech therapy? Or, what if your child is receiving speech and language therapy through a public option but you strongly feel that he or she is in need of supplemental services? The three families described below found three different approaches to paying for speech therapy. Hopefully you can learn from their experiences.
Sammy – Age 2 years, 3 months
At Sammy’s two-year pediatric appointment, his pediatrician recommended that Sammy have his speech evaluated by the local Early Intervention (EI) Program. Sammy appeared to understand most of what was said to him, was socially related and motivated, but
had a vocabulary of about 20 words and had not yet begun to combine words into short phrases.
Sammy’s mom contacted EI and an evaluation was scheduled two months later. A month later an official EI evaluation report arrived in the mail. It stated that Sammy’s receptive language (i.e. his ability to understand language) fell in the 40th percentile and his expressive language (i.e. his ability to use language to express his needs and wants) fell in the 5th percentile. However, his total language (combining both receptive and expressive language) fell in the 21st percentile.
While Sammy was deemed ineligible, his mom and dad decided that his language skills could use a boost and they contacted Speech Buddies to book one of our local therapists. Wondering how to pay for speech therapy, they were surprised to discover that their health insurance did provide some coverage for services.
Arden – Age 3 years, 10 months
Like Sammy above, Arden was evaluated by EI but deemed ineligible for services. Arden showed continued improvement in her speech and language development but her ability to express herself as well as her speech clarity remained concerns for her parents. Arden and her parents contacted a local therapist. After evaluating her, Arden’s therapist recommended that her family contact her local Committee of Preschool Special Education (CPSE) to schedule an official evaluation, and, if deemed eligible, this evaluation would provide the justification for Arden to be issued an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that would allow Arden’s family to receive speech and language therapy services covered by her local school district.
In addition, because Arden’s family wanted her to get services right away, they started with a private therapist. While they were thankful for the prospect of her services likely being covered by her school district, they also knew that it can takes weeks, and sometimes months, for those services to begin. Understandably, they didn’t want to wait that long and felt the relatively modest investment in her speech services was a very important one to make.
Arden’s therapist not only continued to provide the service but also acted to advise the family on who to contact within the local school district. Arden’s family maintained a “polite persistence” when it came to school services: many districts have a lot on their plate, so to speak, and it is crucial to consistently follow up with the administrative staff at the school district, to expedite matters. Once Arden was approved for services, her parents continued to use her therapist for the transition to school-based services and to supplement the help she was beginning to receive. As she continued to make significant progress toward her speech and language goals, her parents decided that the school-based services were sufficient.
By supplementing school services with private therapy, Arden’s family was able to start therapy promptly, minimize interruptions in therapy, and minimize the amount of classroom time Arden would have missed for school services.
Leo – Age 7 years, 1 month
Leo’s mother had noticed that he had trouble saying his R sound throughout his childhood. At age 5, a friend of her sister’s who is a speech pathologist, rightly said that this is likely age-appropriate but to keep a keen eye out if he doesn’t spontaneously correct his R sound. By his seventh birthday and in the middle of his first grade year, his mother decided to contact his public school’s staff speech pathologist. The therapist told her that, unfortunately,
since Leo did not show signs of a language disorder and his teachers reported on-target overall academic development, her hands were tied as to what she could provide him in school.
Leo’s mother contacted her insurance provider to understand how to pay for speech therapy and learned that articulation therapy was covered as an out-of-network benefit even though Leo’s therapist did not directly participate with the family’s insurance plan. After paying a deductible, 70% of the already reduced cost of the sessions was covered. Leo’s speech therapist supplied his mom with “homework” exercises to follow up on the work he was doing in sessions with his therapist and in twelve sessions total, Leo was discharged from therapy.
How to pay for Speech Therapy?
The reality around the country now is that it is becoming harder and harder to access public option or direct insurance coverage to pay for speech and language therapy services. We think that is an unfortunate thing but is nonetheless something we have to live with and try to work around. That is why we created Speech Buddies Connect, a network of local speech therapists: to add as much value to the hard-earned money you are investing in speech therapy. In addition to being a network of top notch private therapists, we are here as an information resource to help you navigate the sometimes confusing patchwork of public options potentially available to you.
Should you have any questions about your child’s speech and language production or how to pay for speech therapy, please don’t hesitate to contact us.