My son was diagnosed with a language delay at the age of two. I immediately set into action to get him the best services available. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the best services often came with a high price tag ($120 per hour for speech therapy in our area). I’m not sure why this realization came as such a shock since in addition to being a parent of a special needs child, I am also a speech language pathologist.
My training and background told me that getting help early can make a huge difference in functional outcomes. I discussed concerns regarding my son’s language development with our pediatrician. She referred us to our state’s early intervention program, called First Steps, in Indiana. Early intervention programs are federally mandated services that provide speech, occupational, physical and developmental therapies to children between the ages of birth and three. The programs may vary from state to state. The child must qualify for services through diagnostic testing. The services may be based on income. A sliding fee scale was used in our state. We were required to pay a small co-payment for speech therapy services rendered. I was able to reduce our co-payment due to the fact that I am an excellent record keeper. I was able to produce receipts for medical services we utilized that year to further reduce our eligible income, thereby reducing our required co-payment amount.
Local School District
I knew that once a child turns three, he is no longer eligible for early intervention services. Local school districts are required to provide speech therapy services to children aged three and up who qualify. Qualification is based on evaluation results, not based on income. Since we had already received speech therapy services through our state’s early intervention program, transition to our local school system was made easy. Based on testing and recommendations from our early intervention providers, my son was eligible for placement in a preschool program run by a special education teacher. The program was geared towards children with special needs and he was able to continue speech therapy at no cost to us.
As happy as I was with the early intervention and school based speech therapy services, I wanted my son to receive private speech therapy to maximize his communication skills. Unfortunately, I found out that our insurance company only covered speech therapy if it was deemed medically necessary. Developmental delays are often times not considered medically necessary. We appealed the decision with our insurance company, but still had no luck. I called around to several area clinics and found that if I agreed to pay the bill in cash, I was eligible for a 20% discount on speech therapy services.
Since I am a speech pathologist, I was able to network with other professionals in my field. As a result I was able to get some diagnostic testing for my son, free of charge, as a professional courtesy. I realize that most parents are not in the business, but it doesn’t mean you can’t network. Valuable connections can be made through networking with other parents and professionals. Discounted services are often available and discovered through word of mouth.
Before I had children, I was a clinical supervisor at a local university’s speech and hearing clinic. The speech therapy services at these university clinics are usually high quality and steeply discounted. All therapy activities are guided by licensed and experienced clinical supervisors. Although the actual therapy is performed by graduate students, what they lack in experience they make up for in dedication. The out of pocket cost is often minimal compared to the same services at a hospital or private clinic. Unfortunately, we moved away from the college town before my son required speech services. I would not hesitate to call a university speech and hearing clinic if we had one in our current vicinity.
Fast forward nine years, my son is now entering the sixth grade. I know he is doing as well as he is academically due to my persistence to get him the help he needed at a cost we could afford.