Tips and Resources

How Long Will Speech Therapy Take?

It has to be the question speech therapists hear most often from the people they serve: “How long will speech therapy take?”

You may have guessed that unfortunately, there is no one single answer. Many factors influence how long a child or adult will be in speech therapy. This can be frustrating to hear. But it can help to know what those factors are and which ones you can control. Let’s dive in!

How is progress tracked in speech therapy?

First, let’s look at how speech therapists measure a person’s improvement over time. Before therapy begins, the speech therapist evaluates the person’s strengths and where they need support, in order to create an individualized plan of care. That plan is made up of short-term goals that feed into long-term goals–which are the ultimate, functional outcomes that speech therapy aims to achieve.

Throughout therapy, the speech therapist monitors the person’s progress, noting when each short-term goal is met and it’s time to move to the next one.

What affects how long speech therapy is needed?

So how long will you or your child be in speech therapy? The length 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

  • The person’s age

  • Any underlying medical conditions

While many speech and language issues can be resolved in childhood with the right speech therapy, others can persist into adulthood and require long-term therapy and maintenance. That means the duration and frequency of speech therapy will be different for every person. 

How certain diagnoses can affect the length of speech therapy

Some conditions tend to lead to a longer amount of time in speech therapy. They include:

Not everyone with these diagnoses will need speech therapy for a long time. Some people might progress more quickly than others, or reach their highest level of functioning sooner. The severity of the medical problem may also affect how long speech therapy is needed. 

It’s important to know that speech therapy can often be episodic, as well. This means that after a certain amount of time in speech therapy, the person takes a break, then resumes therapy later. Perhaps a child with apraxia has speech therapy for two years, gaining many communication skills along the way. They reach a plateau in their progress, so the speech therapist and the child’s family decide to stop temporarily. With time, as the child grows, the family sees the need to resume speech therapy to continue the child’s communication development. 

Typically, a person will graduate sooner from speech therapy if their delay or disorder is mild. 

You may be curious about which diagnoses usually improve most quickly in speech therapy. Keep in mind that speech therapists can never know exactly how someone will progress. But typically, a person will graduate sooner from speech therapy if their delay or disorder is mild. A mild disorder means that there aren’t as many issues to improve.

For example, if a child has a mild articulation delay, they may only have trouble making one or two speech sounds. A child with a mild speech delay may only be slightly behind developmental norms, requiring less time in speech therapy before they catch up.

Or, if an adult has a lisp, they may be able to pronounce the /s/ sound after a few months spent learning tongue placement techniques in speech therapy and practicing consistently at home.

The key to faster progress in speech therapy

Whether it’s a child or adult receiving speech therapy, the importance of practicing between sessions can’t be overstated. Ongoing home practice helps the person maintain the skills they’re learning in sessions. That enables them to move on to new skills–and meet their short-term goals–more quickly. 

If you’re the caregiver of a child receiving speech therapy, research has shown that when families participate in their child’s therapy, it leads to better–and faster–outcomes. You spend the most time with your child, and you know them best. So you’re in a perfect position to help them with their speech and language, as part of your daily routines together.

But don’t worry. No one has to do speech therapy alone! Your speech therapist is there to build your skills in therapy sessions, teach caregivers how to support their child’s progress, and provide tips and tricks for practicing at home. Your speech therapist will explain what you should practice throughout the week in order to reach your goals. Don’t overlook the impact of even a few minutes of practice per day!

How to practice speech and language at home

You may benefit from setting up a practice schedule, or putting reminders to practice in your phone. You can also look for ways to naturally fit practice into your daily routines. Maybe you help your child practice vocabulary skills as you cook together or read together. Or maybe you practice your own speech sounds or fluency skills while driving to work or ordering food at a restaurant. It doesn’t matter how or when you practice, as long as you do it! 

Talk to your speech therapist about your progress

Remember, your speech therapist is there to help. Ask them about the progress they’re seeing, and talk to them about ways you can practice at home.

If you’re concerned about how long speech therapy is taking, talk to them about that, too. Speech therapists know that therapy is a commitment, both of time and of money. They may be able to share examples of progress they see that you didn’t even realize was happening. Each small step is a step closer to meeting your goals!

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