Many parents know when their child may need the help of a professional. Maybe their 18 month old isn't talking yet. Maybe their 3 year old only uses 1-2 words at a time instead of full sentences. Maybe their 5 year old tells stories out of order. Maybe their 13 year old just can't seem to get and stay organized. Whatever the reason is, many kids need speech therapy, but getting it isn't always easy.
The first step is to identify what you think they need support in. Is it reading? Is it the way they make their sounds? Is it their ability to try new foods? Whatever the reason is, knowing WHY you think your child needs therapy is the first place to start.
For Children 0-3 Years Old
If your child is under 3, the first place to go is your pediatrician. Tell them your concerns and see what they recommend, if they tell you to "wait and see" answer with a loud and resounding "I'd prefer to work on this now". The "wait and see" approach is outdated and current research suggests intervening as soon as possible, whatever the issue be, is best practice for all children.
Ask your pediatrician for a referral to early intervention services. These are services that are usually free and are provided by the state. If you are in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire, these services are provided by Pathways. Your child should be evaluated by a speech pathologist to determine if there is a need for speech therapy.
Early Intervention is a great resource however, they do not always identify all children who need services. In order to qualify for their help, a child must meet certain criteria. If your child does not meet this criteria it doesn't mean they don't need speech therapy, it just means early intervention can't provide it. Even if your child does qualify for services due to staffing shortages early intervention cannot always provide as much or as high of a quality service as is needed. In both of these cases, seeking additional, private services is recommended.
For Children 3 and Up
If your child is over 3 years old, a good place to start is the school district. Ask to meet with your child's teacher to discuss your concerns. From there, you can submit a written request for an evaluation through special education. The school is required to meet this request within a specific time frame. Just as with early intervention, schools have certain criteria that must be met in order to qualify for speech therapy. Just because your child doesn't qualify for speech therapy at school doesn't mean they don't need it! And just because they get speech therapy at school doesn't mean they couldn't benefit from more!
After exploring school and early intervention options the next place to look is hospitals and clinics. Some hospitals provide speech therapy for children, some do not. If that is not an option, look for private clinics. These clinics can often provide more personalized and more frequent services than what is available in the schools and do not have more flexible criteria for qualification.
Private clinics provide services for children who don't qualify for early intervention or school services and children who do qualify, but would benefit from additional help.
If you are interested in a free consultation to find out if speech therapy is right for your child email firstname.lastname@example.org.