Telehealth has been growing rapidly in the United States, and speech therapy is no exception. Every day, more and more families and individuals are choosing to receive online speech therapy from the comfort of their homes.
Here, we provide an overview of online speech therapy: how it works, what speech and language issues can be successfully treated online, how well online therapy works versus traditional therapy, and more. This information is intended to answer as many questions as possible so you and/or your family can make the most informed treatment decisions.
Speech therapy overview
Online speech therapy with Expressable
What is speech therapy?
Speech therapy helps children and adults improve their communication skills. Speech therapy is also used to treat problems related to voice quality as well as oral, swallowing, and feeding issues.
Speech therapy intervention focuses on improving an individual’s speech patterns (including how to coordinate mouth movements to correctly produce sounds, words, and sentences), as well as their ability to understand and express both verbal and nonverbal language.
What does speech therapy treat?
Speech therapy involves the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of a range of speech, language, voice, and swallowing problems. Common examples include:
Speech sound disorders (including both articulation and phonological issues)
Communication challenges related to autism spectrum disorder
What is a speech-language pathologist?
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), more commonly referred to as speech therapists, are experts in human communication, its development, and disorders. They assess, diagnose, and treat a wide range of speech and language disorders, cognitive-communication issues, and oral, swallowing, and feeding issues.
All certified speech therapists have at least a master’s degree and have obtained licensure in each of the states they practice. They are certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and are required to pass a national exam and complete a supervised clinical fellowship.
What do speech therapists do?
Based on a thorough evaluation of your communication needs, strengths, and deficits, your speech therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan to help you reach your goals. While speech therapy is often delivered one-on-one, it can also be provided in a group setting.
Speech therapists use a variety of strategies and techniques during therapy sessions. Some of these include:
Language therapy: To help build foundational language skills necessary for early childhood development, speaking, and literacy, your speech therapy will interact with your child through playing and talking. They’ll use games, books, objects, and pictures to help stimulate language development. In addition, they’ll use repetitive exercises to build language skills, and work with your child to teach new vocabulary words, correct their grammar, and more.
Speech therapists also work with adults to improve their verbal and nonverbal language skills, helping them become strong communicators so they can reach their personal and professional goals.
Speech sound therapy: Articulation therapy focuses on correctly producing sounds. Speech therapists work with children and adults using exercises that involve modeling correct sounds and syllables to clearly articulate words and sentences.
One common problem area in children is correctly pronouncing the /r/ sound–for example, saying “wabbit” instead of “rabbit.” In this case, your speech therapist will demonstrate correct tongue placement and use age-appropriate exercises to teach your child how to pronounce that sound.
Speech therapists commonly work with adults to correct speech errors that have persisted since childhood, or to help them regain normal speech patterns following an illness or injury.
Oral-motor/feeding and swallowing therapy: People who have trouble with feeding and swallowing often work with a speech therapist. Treatment can include a range of oral exercises to strengthen the mouth muscles we use every day. The speech therapist may also introduce or recommend different food textures to increase oral awareness during feeding.
Who needs speech therapy?
Speech therapy is appropriate for all ages, from babies to adults.
For children, speech therapy is most commonly recommended for those struggling to reach communication milestones appropriate for their age. Speech therapy can help children improve their overall communication skills. That includes their ability to clearly articulate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas (expressive language), as well as their ability to process and comprehend language (receptive language).
For adults, speech therapy can improve lingering communication issues that developed in childhood and were never properly treated, such as stuttering or articulation errors. Speech problems can also develop in adulthood as a result of illness or injury, often due to a stroke or illness (such as Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or ALS). In addition, many adults seek treatment for issues that are nonclinical but can still affect their communication and confidence, such as professional speaking or accent modification.
How long does speech therapy last?
The duration of speech therapy depends on a variety of factors, including:
The type of speech disorder or communication challenge
The frequency of speech therapy sessions each week/month
Underlying medical condition
While many speech and language issues begin in childhood and may improve over time, others can persist into adulthood and require long-term therapy and maintenance. Thus, the duration and frequency of speech therapy will be different for every person.
Where is speech therapy offered?
Speech therapy can be delivered in a variety of settings, including a private speech therapy clinic, school, hospital, skilled nursing facility, in your home, or online using video technology. Choosing the right location for you and your family depends on a range of factors, including your clinical needs and preferences.
Is my child too young to start speech therapy?
Speech and language skills begin developing in infancy. Building strong language skills in young children, particularly babies, can set the foundation for strong communication and literacy skills once they enter school.
Speech therapy is important for children who are not reaching age-appropriate communication milestones, or who have communication difficulties such as stuttering or mispronunciations due to a lisp. Because speech and language patterns become more ingrained and habitual over time, the earlier that speech errors can be corrected, the better outcomes children are likely to have.
Does speech therapy work for adults?
Absolutely. In fact, it’s never too late to start speech therapy. Adults commonly receive speech therapy to:
Overcome communication obstacles that began in childhood and were never properly treated (such as a stutter or articulation issue)
Treat speech and language issues that developed due to illness or injury, such as after a stroke or as a result of Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or ALS
Improve communication skills due to a clinical diagnosis, including aphasia, acquired apraxia of speech, dysarthria, and other cognitive conditions
Modify the pitch, intonation, and quality of your voice
Improve confidence and increase communication skills vital to your professional development, such as communicating with coworkers and interviewing
Reduce accents that are regional or based on your country of origin
Reduce the fear of public speaking and help you excel at presenting in a group setting
How much does speech therapy typically cost?
This is one of the most common questions for people considering speech therapy. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Like all types of health-related services, speech therapy can be expensive, with costs changing depending on factors such as:
Where you live
The professional experience of your speech therapist
How speech therapy is delivered (in-person versus online)
Whether you have insurance coverage
The type of insurance coverage you have
Speech therapy generally costs anywhere from $100 to $250 a session. Some speech therapy providers also charge additional costs, like a one-time fee for an evaluation (typically a few hundred dollars), or penalties for canceled and rescheduled appointments.
To find exact costs, it’s important to speak with each speech therapy provider that you’re considering and, if you have insurance, find out whether speech therapy is covered.
Does insurance cover speech therapy?
If you have health insurance, check with your plan about whether they cover speech therapy.
Unfortunately, speech therapy coverage is routinely denied by insurers for a host of reasons (after all, they’re always trying to keep their costs down). Insurance companies are required to provide a written response outlining their reason for rejection, which can include:
Treatment is not considered a “medical necessity”
Speech-language therapy is not a covered service
There are alternatives, like receiving speech therapy from a local public school
Treatment is not medical but educational or developmental in nature (this is common for adults seeking to improve their communication skills)
While you can fight the denial, many families find themselves in a constant cycle of appeals.
In some cases, insurance companies may only offer temporary coverage for a fixed amount of time, such as 6 to 8 speech therapy sessions. For some individuals, this works, but for others, that isn’t enough to address the root cause of their challenges.
What is Expressable online speech therapy?
At the end of the day, online speech therapy with Expressable is similar to therapy delivered in more traditional, in-person settings. The only difference is that instead of sitting face-to-face with your speech therapist at a table, you’re sitting face-to-face with your speech therapist via a video screen.
If you’ve ever used Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet, or any other type of video chat software, speech therapy delivered online is no different. On the other end of your screen is a certified and experienced speech-language pathologist who will work with you and/or your child to improve communication skills.
What are the benefits of online speech therapy?
Technology is reshaping our lives in many ways–including how we search for information, communicate with friends and family, and shop. Increasingly, it’s also changing how we receive health-related services and care.
Here are some of the reasons families love Expressable online speech therapy:
Affordability: Expressable doesn’t have to pay many of the costs that come with running an in-person practice (think rent, overhead, administration costs, certain types of liability insurance, and more). These savings can be passed down to our clients, which, in many cases, makes speech therapy with Expressable dramatically cheaper. Convenience: By connecting with your speech therapist online, you can receive high-quality care from the comfort of your home. This means no more long driving commutes or hours spent sitting in a waiting room. In addition, people often learn best in an environment that’s familiar and comfortable–their homes.
Accessibility: People who live in remote or rural areas often struggle with finding quality speech therapy near their homes. This is not only inconvenient, but makes it harder to find a speech therapist specialized in your unique needs. Expressable removes these geographic barriers completely. We work with a large team of speech therapists, matching you with a professional who’s experienced and specialized in your area of need.
Scheduling flexibility: Many speech therapy clinics are open during traditional 9-5 business hours. Unfortunately, with school and work schedules, this can be inconvenient, if not impossible to arrange. Expressable online speech therapy offers more flexible hours, including mornings, nights, and weekends, so you can fit speech therapy around your life–not the other way around.
Therapist specialty: Speech therapy covers a broad range of disciplines and diagnoses. A speech therapist who’s specialized in early childhood articulation may not feel comfortable treating a post-stroke survivor with limited cognitive functioning, or a child with autism. With Expressable, you’re not limited to the speech therapists at any one clinic or school setting. You have access to a wide range of speech therapists so you can be matched with the one best suited for your needs.
Parent and caregiver engagement: Children make more progress toward their speech therapy goals when their parent or caregiver is actively involved. This is because the strategies and techniques taught by your speech therapist must be constantly practiced and reinforced at home.
Building a strong relationship with your speech therapist can be especially hard in a school-based setting. One speech therapist may be assigned to multiple students, and parents rarely get a chance to connect with their child’s therapist. With Expressable, you can sit alongside your child or loved one during their therapy sessions so you can more easily and actively participate in their care.
What speech therapy services can be delivered online?
Most speech and language disorders can be effectively treated online. Services related to speech, language, and communication goals are easily addressed in an online session. That includes articulation disorders, language delays, and post-stroke rehabilitation, to name just a few.
One landmark study that compared progress and satisfaction of children receiving in-person versus online speech therapy was conducted by Kent State University. Researchers used standardized tests to measure outcomes, and found that students in both study groups made considerable advancement toward their goals. However, based on surveys, researchers noted that both students and parents overwhelmingly preferred the online delivery method because of its convenience.
With that said, there is a small group of conditions that may be better suited to a more interactive, hands-on approach. Examples include swallowing and feeding issues, as well as tracheotomy management. These individuals often require high levels of tactile cues or sensory input. For some clients, a family and caregiver coaching approach can be highly beneficial within an online model. In other cases, in-person sessions may be more appropriate.
At the end of the day, nothing is a perfect fit for everybody. We each have our own unique learning styles, preferences, and comfort level. However, online speech therapy is an appropriate and effective delivery model for most communication disorders, and most people who try online speech therapy love it.
Does online speech therapy work for young children?
The majority of children love online speech therapy. Many become more attentive with online learning, and they prefer the interactivity of online exercises and communication. Plus, there are many effective strategies that speech therapists use to engage children online.
Expressable’s model of care also focuses on the most important part of improving children’s speech and language skills: parent and caregiver involvement. When parents are more actively involved in their child’s care, children make progress more quickly. Our therapists work directly with caregivers and act as their “coach,” teaching them techniques, cues, and at-home strategies so they can use language-building skills during everyday activities.
What does online speech therapy look like?
Speech therapy intervention may look different depending on the age of the person we’re treating.
Ages 0-3: For infants and toddlers, our therapists work directly with caregivers to help them reinforce learning and best practices at home. This is because speech and language-building skills happen throughout a child’s daily life, from playtime to dinner prep to bedtime rituals. Your speech therapist will arm you with education, tools, cues, and at-home strategies so you can practice communication skills throughout your child’s everyday life. While children are encouraged to sit alongside their caregivers during online therapy sessions, it’s not necessary for this age group.
Ages 3-6: At this age, children are more independent and can benefit from instruction delivered in the speech therapy sessions. In many cases, children attend the video sessions alongside their caregivers so they can both learn valuable skills directly from the speech therapist. For children who have trouble focusing with online learning, speech therapists will continue to work with caregivers so lessons can more easily be incorporated at home.
Ages 7 and up: While many older children attend sessions independently, caregivers are more than welcome to join. In addition, parents are kept in the loop with updates and tips. They also have direct access to their speech therapist via secure texting so questions can be answered anytime.
Adults: One of the biggest advantages of online speech therapy for adults is the ability to schedule therapy sessions around your busy work and family life. Adults are more than welcome to attend sessions independently, or bring along a spouse, family member, or caregiver.
Is online speech therapy as effective as traditional therapy?
Many studies have compared the effectiveness and outcomes of speech therapy delivered online versus conventional, in-person settings. Many of these prominent studies, including those conducted at Kent State University and by the Ohio Department of Public Education, found that children made similar progress toward their communication goals regardless of how speech therapy was delivered. Each study used GFTA-2 scores (Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation) to measure progress, which is one of the most popular and credible tests used to assess speech articulation in children and adults.
Based on a strong body of evidence, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which is the credentialing association for speech-language pathologists, recognized online speech therapy in 2005 as a valid means of therapy delivery.
What do I need to get started with online speech therapy?
All you need to get started with Expressable online speech therapy is an internet connection and a computer or tablet, such as an iPad. While you can use your smartphone if necessary, it’s generally better to use a larger screen.
At Expressable, we take your privacy and confidentiality seriously. All the technology we use, including our secure video and text messaging platforms, are HIPAA compliant. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that helps protect and safeguard your sensitive information, with regulation on the use of safe and compliant technology.
How does Expressable work?
Getting started with Expressable online speech therapy involves a few simple steps:
1 Have a consultation
It begins with a free, 15-minute phone consultation from one of our certified speech therapists. Simply fill out a few questions and choose a time you’d like to be contacted. During this consultation, an Expressable speech therapist will work to better understand your needs and communication goals, and determine if Expressable is a good fit. No credit cards or commitments are required, and we promise never to spam you with calls and emails.
2 Get matched with a therapist
If you choose to move forward with Expressable, we’ll pair you with a speech therapist that’s experienced in your area of need. As mentioned, speech therapy covers a broad scope of services and specialties, so it’s important to be matched with a professional best suited to help. We’ll also ask for more detailed intake information to prepare your speech therapist with the knowledge they need to deliver effective care.
3 Participate in an evaluation
Your first speech therapy session will be a comprehensive, 45-minute evaluation to assess your communication strengths, deficits, and goals. Unlike other speech therapy practices, Expressable doesn’t charge hundreds of dollars for the evaluation. In fact, it’s the same price as a normal, 30-minute session.
4 Choose session times and frequency
Based on your communication needs and goals, your speech therapist will recommend a frequency of weekly or monthly sessions. While some individuals need a more intensive therapy schedule, others may only need speech therapy a few times a month to correct minor issues or maintain progress. However, the frequency of speech therapy sessions is ultimately up to you, and should take into account your personal goals, budget, and availability.
5 Begin therapy
We’ll send you a secure link to attend your speech therapy sessions at the time you’ve selected. Simply click the link and you’ll be instantly connected to your speech therapist. You and your speech therapist can also communicate directly via our secure texting platform, so you can ask questions anytime or easily reschedule an appointment.
How much does Expressable cost?
At Expressable, our mission is to make speech therapy affordable, convenient, and accessible for everyone. As an online speech therapy provider, Expressable saves many of the costs typically associated with running a physical practice. This allows us to pass these cost savings down to you.
Expressable offers two convenient payment models: per-session or monthly. There are no contracts or long-term commitments, so you’re free to cancel anytime. You can also easily increase or decrease the frequency of services as you wish, depending on your progress and budget. Our per-session fee is $75. Our monthly membership is $240/month, which is a 20% discount and includes 4 sessions per month, with 20% off all additional sessions.
Regardless of your payment model, each session includes a curated list of at-home exercises, as well as unlimited texting with your speech therapist.