How to Find the Right Speech Therapist for Your Child
Learning that your child has a speech disorder may feel overwhelming. These tips for finding the right speech therapist will help you get started on the path to helping your child.
Talking with your child’s doctor is a good first step. He or she should be able to refer you to one or more speech therapists. A speech therapist should have the initials ‘SLP’ after their name, for ‘speech-language pathologist.’
Children younger than three years old may qualify for early intervention through a local government-funded program that provides the services they need, including speech therapy. Children older than three years old may qualify for services through your school district.
You can also find a speech therapist at a nearby private clinic or children’s hospital, or start a search on Healthgrades.com for speech therapists in your area. Armed with recommendations, consider the following before deciding on the best professional for your child.
1. Look for the proper training and the right expertise.
Choose a speech therapist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This certification means that the therapist has graduated from an accredited program. Certified speech therapists have passed a national exam. They have also completed a one-year clinical fellowship. The ASHA provides an online directory of certified speech therapists.
Speech therapists specialize in certain areas, so ask candidates if they have the specific expertise your child needs. The right therapist for your child will have extensive knowledge about your child’s particular speech disorder. He or she should also have completed course work, workshops and seminars on this condition. This helps ensure the therapist is up to date on the most effective therapies.
It’s a good idea to ask speech therapists how much experience they have working with children. Ask potential therapists how much of their case load includes kids similar to yours. This could help you feel more comfortable when making your decision.
2. Think about their treatment approach.
There are many different types of speech problems. Treatment for one condition may be different than for another. The speech therapist you choose should be able to describe his or her treatment approach for your child's problem and also to explain how he or she plans to track your child’s progress.
It’s important to work with your child’s speech therapist. Children can benefit from this team approach. Your child’s therapist has only a limited amount of time with your child. Parents and caregivers can help implement treatment strategies throughout the day. A good therapist will include you in your child’s care.
3. Take notice of the therapist’s "bedside manner" with kids.
Speech therapists who work with children should be able to put them at ease. Your child should feel comfortable during speech therapy sessions. Children who aren’t relaxed will have trouble learning. The best way to ensure your child isn’t stressed is to find a therapist who interacts well with kids.
Child-friendly speech therapists will:
- Ask kids about what interests them
- Get down on the floor with children during sessions
- Help kids have fun during treatment
4. Consider ease of scheduling and making it to appointments.
Once you’ve narrowed down the search, ask a potential speech therapist specific questions that could help you figure out if he or she is right for your child. Be sure the therapist is available at times that fit your schedule. It’s also a good idea to ask potential speech therapists for references. You should be able to talk to other parents of children they have treated for their feedback.