How to Find and Choose the Perfect Speech TherapistLeanne Sherred, M.S., CCC-SLP
There are many reasons families choose to begin speech therapy. Some receive a speech therapy referral from their doctor or pediatrician. Others seek professional help after noticing their child struggling to communicate or lagging behind children their age.
Regardless, once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to find a speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist. Picking the right speech therapist isn’t always an easy decision. There are many things to consider, including the nature of the communication or swallowing disorder, the therapist's qualifications, your budget, scheduling availability, and more.
Here are some important factors that should go into your process for finding a speech therapist.
Factors to consider when choosing a speech therapist
There are many wonderful speech therapists out there. The key is to find one that’s right for your family. At the end of the day, you should feel confident that your speech therapist has the clinical expertise to improve your child's communication. They should be someone you can build a strong and trusting relationship with.
What is your child's communication disorder or problem?
Speech therapy covers a wide scope of practice, including speech and language disorders, as well as social communication, cognitive-communication, and oral motor/feeding and swallowing issues. While speech therapists can evaluate and treat a wide range of ages and diagnoses, it’s important to find one that’s experienced in your area of need.
For example, a speech therapist who specializes in early language development in young children may not be comfortable working with an stroke survivor who’s experiencing limited cognitive function.
Think of it this way. Imagine you wanted to start taking guitar lessons. Any guitar teacher could provide foundational instruction to get you started. However, do you want to learn classical guitar? Electric? Blues? Jazz? Acoustic? R&B? Finding a teacher with insight and experience in your desired style will help you master the right scales and strumming patterns.
When searching for a speech therapist, make sure to ask for their credentials, clinical specialty, and experience treating clients with similar needs.
Where do you want to receive speech therapy?
There are two main settings that children receive speech therapy: in their school or through a private practice. Each location has its pros and cons.
Speech therapy in a school is generally the most inexpensive option. School speech therapists have the benefit of collaborating with a child’s teachers. However, many schools are under-staffed and under-resourced when it comes to speech therapy. This could mean lengthy wait times, irregular schedules due to holidays, and most important, a lack of personalized, one-on-one instruction. Due to the volume of children requiring speech therapy at school, speech therapists often hold group sessions with multiple children, all with varying needs.
Speech therapy in a school is generally the most inexpensive option. However, many schools are under-staffed and under-resourced for speech therapy.
If you are unsatisfied with your school’s options, or want to seek additional care to improve your child’s progress, consider going the private practice route.
There are many advantages of going to a private clinic. First, your child will receive personalized attention and support from your speech therapist. The therapist will tailor instructions to your child’s communication strengths and goals.
Second, parents may not always be able to interact with school speech therapists. With private pay, you can more easily develop a strong parent-therapist relationship and stay in close contact about your child’s progress.
Third, with private speech therapy, you have a greater choice in which speech therapist you work with. This makes it easier to find one who meets your child’s needs.
It's true that speech therapy at a private clinic generally costs more. If you’re fortunate enough to have insurance, your coverage could reduce these costs.
Finally, it's important to know that there are alternatives to public and private therapy. One example is local colleges that have Speech and Hearing Departments or offer speech therapy programs. You can receive a diagnosis and treatment from a student studying speech-language pathology, all under the supervision of a licensed therapist. While this can be a much more affordable option, one potential downside is that your child may work with a roster of rotating students as they trade shifts and graduate.
Online versus in-person speech therapy
Not long ago, speech therapy required that clients and therapists be physically located within the same room. Today, telehealth has revolutionized how many of us receive health care services, including speech therapy.
From evaluation to diagnosis to evidence-based treatment, online speech therapy works similarly to traditional, in-person care. The only difference is that instead of sitting face-to-face in the same room, you’re sitting face-to-face through video conferencing software. Online speech therapy also offers these benefits:
Convenience: No commute time required! Your child receives therapy at home, where they're most comfortable.
Flexible scheduling: Online speech therapy is often available in the evening or on weekends.
Parent involvement: It's easy for parents and caregivers to attend online speech therapy with their child. You can more easily track your child's progress and learn how to help them practice at home, which leads to faster progress.
If you decide to go the online route, make sure you find a professional who’s experienced with online speech therapy. Beyond providing excellent care, online speech therapists should be skilled at keeping children engaged in a virtual environment. Examples might include playing interactive computer games, using different backgrounds, and giving your child remote access to draw on a virtual whiteboard. Your speech therapist should also know how to involve parents and caregivers in therapy so they're equipped to help their child between sessions.
Where to find a speech therapist near you
Using the criteria listed above will help you narrow your search and find a speech therapist best suited to your needs. There are many places to search for a speech therapist, including:
Expressable: If you’re considering online speech therapy, Expressable offers a large team of qualified therapists with a range of specialities. After a free consultation to learn more about your communication goals, Expressable matches you with a speech therapist based on your needs, location, and availability (including evenings and weekends).
Doctor or pediatrician recommendation: Your health care provider may be able to give you a referral to a local speech therapist.
Insurance company: If you have health insurance, contact them to better understand their policies and coverage for speech therapy. They may have a list of in-network speech therapy providers that you can research and contact.
Online directories: There are several online directories where you can search speech therapists by location and qualifications. One of these directories is compiled by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which is the professional credentialing organization for speech-language pathologists.
Colleges: As mentioned, receiving therapy from a college student studying to become a speech therapist may be a viable and affordable option for some families.