Cleveland speech therapist in session with a girl

Why School Speech Therapy Alone Often Isn’t Enough

There’s no question school-based speech therapy programs play a crucial role in supporting kids with speech & language disorders. However, as our Cleveland speech therapists can explain, schools don’t always provide the most comprehensive and individualized intervention that some kids need to reach their full potential.

It’s not that the school speech therapists in are unqualified or unskilled. On the contrary, many of them are excellent. In fact, several of our own Cleveland speech therapists came to Therapy & Wellness Connection after working for a time in local school districts in Northeast Ohio. Most love working with kids and are passionate about the work they do.

That said, school-based speech therapy not only targets different goals than private therapy, the interventions are more generalized. Speech therapists in schools often have heavy case loads, so kids in those settings are rarely getting 1:1 speech sessions.

This doesn’t mean the speech services your child gets at school aren’t helping. Every ounce of intervention is valuable, and some kids learn great in groups.

But private speech therapy – either in-clinic (which we provide at our facility in Brecksville) or in-home – will help kids master communication goals as quickly as possible.

School vs. Private Speech Therapy – Different Goalposts

There are many differences between Cleveland speech therapy your child gets from a private clinic versus what you can expect them to receive in school – starting with qualifying services.

The ultimate goal of speech therapy in schools is to help children reach their greatest academic potential. That means in order to even qualify for speech therapy services, the school-based speech therapists needs to demonstrate that the child’s speech/language impairment is adversely impacting their learning in school. Kids who qualify for speech services under the federal IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) receive them free of charge, but the threshold is fairly high.

Conversely, private speech therapy clinics don’t typically require kids to have a significant delay or issue to qualify for services. In fact, we’d rather catch issues early and initiate early intervention so the speech-language chasm doesn’t broaden even further. We recognize that regardless of whether it’s significantly affecting them now, it will if we don’t address it.

School-based speech therapy often focuses on addressing speech & language difficulties in the context of a classroom. This approach can be beneficial for a lot of kids, but it doesn’t adequately address the unique needs and challenges of kids with more complex speech/language disorders.

A speech therapist in a private setting will view the child’s communication more holistically. We’re interested in bolstering their speech-language skills not only in the classroom, but in every other environment too. Although we do sometimes combine speech therapy sessions to work with a small group of kids, this is not the norm — and it’s most often to help them work on social communication skills. Private SLPs offer the advantage of comprehensive assessments, customized treatment plans, regular and consistent sessions, parent education and ongoing support – ensuring each child is continuously making strides on their communication goals in all settings.

Won’t the School Let Me Know if They Think My Child Needs Private Services?

It’s actually somewhat unlikely that a school speech therapist will recommend additional speech services for your child – even if they think it would be beneficial. The reason is that by asserting that your child needs certain services, it could make the school district responsible to cover them. (This is not an absolute, but school speech therapists are aware that it could be an issue.) To avoid getting in hot water with their bosses, they might say “no” or keep it vague with “maybe,” or “you should discuss with your child’s pediatrician.”

What we usually tell parents is, “If you’re asking the question whether your child needs speech therapy, they probably do.” Trust your gut. Our speech team will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s speech-language skills and give an evidence-based answer on whether speech-language services would benefit your child. Based on those findings and your health insurance coverage, we can also help you determine if those services are covered by your policy.

For kids with significant speech-language deficits, we think having both school-based and private speech services is ideal. It’s going to help them reach their goals much faster and across environments.

If you have questions about getting started, we’re happy to offer our insights!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Exploring the valued outcomes of school-based speech-language therapy services: a sequential iterative design, 2023, Frontiers in Rehabilitative Science

More Blog Entries:

Brecksville Therapeutic Day School: A Lifeline for Kids Who Learn Differently, March 19, 2024, Cleveland Pediatric Therapy Blog