What You Need to Know About Speech Therapy and Homeschooling

Parents and caregivers choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons. There are many benefits to homeschooling. Caregivers can take a hands-on role in their child’s education, and family members get to spend more time together.

Whether to homeschool or attend traditional school is a personal choice each family has to make for themselves. One factor to consider is special education. There are some areas of special education, such as speech therapy, that may be more challenging to access for families who homeschool. In addition, some homeschooling families may not be sure whether their child has a speech delay or needs help with speech and language.

In this article, we cover everything you need to know about speech therapy and homeschooling: how to tell if your homeschooled child needs speech therapy, as well as options for accessing speech therapy services.

Identifying children who have a speech or language delay

Kids who attend traditional school interact with a variety of teachers and staff every day. As a result, children who need speech therapy may be more likely to be identified. Teachers work with a wide variety of children, and often they’re able to quickly spot the signs of a speech delay or other communication problem. The teacher can then talk with the child’s family and discuss any speech therapy services offered at the school. 

It’s not always easy for parents or caregivers to identify the signs of a speech or language delay. Having extra eyes on a child’s development can help identify kids with possible communication delays and disorders faster. 

How do I know if my homeschooled child needs speech therapy?

All the different speech and language milestones are a lot to remember. It certainly isn’t something that most caregivers have memorized! But being familiar with these guidelines will help you know if your child is meeting age-expected milestones. 

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of major speech and language milestones for school-age children:

Milestones for age 4 

  • Follows multistep directions

  • Describes their feelings and emotions

  • Understands and answers most questions

  • Should be able to say most speech sounds correctly, but may still have errors with the following sounds:  /l/, /s/, /r/, /v/, /z/, "ch," "sh," and "th"

  • Speaks smoothly and fluently, without stuttering

Milestones for age 5

  • Tells short stories

  • Uses compound and complex sentences

  • Answers questions about stories read to them

  • Should be able to rhyme

  • Speaks smoothly and fluently, without stuttering

  • Stays on topic in conversation

  • Can interact with and communicate well with peers

  • Should be able to say all speech sounds correctly

Milestones for age 6

  • Should be able to use most grammar correctly

  • Uses pronouns correctly

  • Uses possessives correctly 

  • Uses correct verb tenses

  • Introduces themselves to peers

  • Initiates a conversation with peers

  • Follows school rules 

  • Can interact with and communicate well with peers

  • Should be able to say all speech sounds correctly

Milestones for age 7

  • Should be able to use grammar correctly

  • Follows school rules

  • Can interact with and communicate well with peers

  • Should be able to say all speech sounds correctly

  • Generally, there shouldn’t be any concerns about their ability to communicate

If you’re worried about your child’s development and you’re not sure if they’re on track, trust your gut. Reach out to a speech therapist, and talk with your child’s pediatrician. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion from another doctor if needed. It never hurts for your child to receive a speech and language evaluation to rule out any concerns. If your child does need speech therapy, the sooner they begin, the better progress they’ll make!

Access to school speech therapy for homeschooled children

Children in public schools who are identified as having special education needs will likely qualify for an IEP, which is an Individualized Education Program or Plan. An IEP details the special education instruction, supports, and services that a child needs to thrive in school. The classroom teacher and any therapists or specialists will all be part of the IEP and work as a team to support the child. They will provide therapies the child needs, as well as supports and modifications at school. Examples might be assistive technology, extra help with certain tasks, or extended time on tests. This can make a huge difference for the child in their academics and overall development. It takes a village to help children reach their goals.

In most cases, kids who are homeschooled can’t access speech therapy at school. However, they may be able to qualify for an IEP through the state.

In most cases, kids who are homeschooled can’t access speech therapy at school. However, they may be able to qualify for an IEP through the state. It’s important to note that the federal government only partially funds special education programs. Each state has to fund the rest. Parents who homeschool should see if their child qualifies for an IEP in their state. One way to research this is through the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

Private speech therapy and teletherapy for homeschooled kids

Because kids who are homeschooled usually can’t receive speech therapy through a traditional school, parents and caregivers will need to seek out other speech therapy options. 

Through private speech therapy, a child will receive one-on-one therapy with a speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist. Sessions usually take place at a clinic.

With online speech therapy, kids can be seen during the day, evenings, or weekends, at a time that works best for their family.

Teletherapy is another option for children who are homeschooled. With teletherapy, or online speech therapy, you can see a speech therapist through a video chatting platform in the comfort of your home. Research has proven teletherapy to be just as effective as in-person speech therapy. Plus, scheduling is more flexible and convenient. With online speech therapy, kids can be seen during the day, or even on evenings or weekends, at a time that works best for them and their family.

You can often use insurance to help pay for private speech therapy or online therapy. However, you’ll need to make sure the speech therapist is in your insurance plan’s network. 

What to expect in speech therapy for school-age kids

You may feel a bit uncertain about starting therapy for your child. Your child’s speech therapist will be there to guide you along the way.

The process will begin with an evaluation. The speech therapist will assess your child’s current strengths and weaknesses and determine if therapy is needed. If it is, the speech therapist will make a recommendation about the frequency of therapy and create a treatment plan with specific goals. 

To keep your child engaged and motivated, speech therapy sessions usually incorporate games or play in some way. The speech therapist will set goals during each session and keep track of your child’s gains. They’ll also explain what you can do between sessions to help improve your child’s speech at home. Home practice is vital to your child’s progress!

Parents often wonder how long speech therapy will take. Practicing at home consistently can help shorten your child’s time in speech therapy, since it helps them make progress more quickly! That way, sessions can be spent moving forward to the next skill or goal, instead of reinforcing or even relearning things worked on in previous weeks.

If you have questions throughout therapy, or even before your first appointment–never hesitate to ask your speech therapist! They are there not just to help your child, but also to support you throughout the speech therapy process. As we say at Expressable, while we’re the experts in communication, you are the expert in your child. Your child won’t make meaningful gains in their speech and language without you by their side.

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