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School Based Speech Therapy vs Private Speech Therapy

    As a former teacher and now Speech Therapist who has provided speech therapy services both in the school setting and in private clinics, I know a thing or two about the pros and cons of both settings. One thing I hear a lot from parents of my school based kiddos when I ask if they have ever or currently receive private therapy is, “Well, little ___(insert child’s name here)_____ is getting speech therapy at school and it’s free, so we don’t do private therapy.” As a school based therapist, I cannot ‘recommend’ to parents that they seek outside speech therapy services, be it to supplement their school based services, because they didn’t qualify for school based services, or instead of school based services. If I were to ‘recommend’ that a parent take their child for private services, the school district may be required to pay for these private services. So no school based therapist will ever tell parents that they should seek private services, even if that is what they are thinking.

    Why, you might ask, would someone need to get private services when they are getting therapy at school?

    While there are many great school based speech therapists out there, the fact that therapy is provided at school places a lot of constraints on them. For starters, because of the nature of school based services, including scheduling, caseload numbers and the amount of required paperwork, services are typically provided in small groups.

    Additionally, there are only so many minutes in the school day and given that your child is there to learn a curriculum specific to their age and grade, and to eat lunch with their friends and play on the playground and enjoy elective classes, and go to school assemblies, there are very few times of the day that a school based therapist has to pull a student out of class to work on their speech objectives. When they do pull the students out of class for speech, many students see it as ‘fun’ time – a way to get out of doing their ‘school work’- or just the opposite, they are worried about missing out on a classroom activity or making up missed work.

    So many students are distracted or don’t work as hard during their school based speech time as they would if they were making a special trip to a private clinic-with specific speech objectives and dedicated one on one time to work on it in a quiet setting, individually with a therapist.

    Some of my students have pretty severe articulation, language or social communication deficits and there is quite simply not enough time in the school week for me to provide services to where one will visibly see results quickly. For these kids, private services would be an excellent way to supplement the school based therapy. Private services may also be more appropriate for kids with mild impairments as well, as you will likely see much faster results and improvement in their speech and language skills than you will see from the school based services. So, instead of spending an entire school year or two to fix a slight lisp in the school setting, you could fix it in half the time by seeing a therapist privately.

    So while I cannot ‘recommend’ to the parents of my students that they take their kids to private therapy, I do usually try to explain the difference between the two models and make sure they know that the two are not mutually exclusive. It is many times appropriate and even advantageous to do both. Take advantage of your school speech therapist, but don’t think that private services are not important or necessary because your child is getting services at school.

    If you are interested in private speech services for your child, especially with summer upon us, please contact us today!